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Basalt Milkvetch Responses to Novel Restoration Treatments in the Great Basin

Fund, Adam J., Hulvey, Kristin B., Jensen, Scott L., Johnson, Douglas A., Madsen, Matthew D., Monaco, Thomas A., Tilley, Derek J., Arora, Erica, Teller, Brittany
Rangeland ecology & management 2019 v.72 no.3 pp. 492-500
Astragalus filipes, arid lands, basins, ecosystems, fabrics, forbs, germination, indigenous species, mortality, pathogens, plant establishment, plant protection, seedling emergence, soil fungi, soil water, spring
The restoration of native forbs in the Great Basin and similar dryland ecosystems remains a great challenge for land managers. Variable soil water, precocious germination and emergence, and the presence of soil fungal pathogens often reduce plant establishment. Novel restoration treatments that increase soil water during early forb life stages, delay germination and emergence to coincide with favorable spring conditions, and reduce mortality from soil fungal pathogens may benefit native forb restoration. We compared the efficacy of three novel treatments—snow fencing, plant protection fabric, and seed coatings—to improve establishment of a forb species native to the Great Basin, basalt milkvetch (Astragalus filipes Torr. ex A. Gray). We replicated treatments plus a no-treatment control at three sites in the Great Basin in a randomized complete block design over 2 yr. To evaluate the efficacy of our restoration treatments, we measured germination, seedling emergence, establishment, and second-yr survival. The effects of snow fencing and plant protection fabric varied by site and life stage and were likely influenced by the wet spring conditions across sites, particularly the two northern sites. Snow fencing increased establishment and second-yr survival at one site. Plant protection fabric did not benefit any life stage at any site. Seed coatings increased seedling emergence at all sites but did not affect establishment or survival. Overall, second-yr survival remained low across all sites and treatments. Our study indicates that our treatments can positively affect basalt milkvetch emergence, establishment, and survival, but additional management actions are needed to improve long-term restoration success of native forbs.