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Native remnants can be sources of plants and topsoil to restore dry and wet cerrado grasslands

Pilon, Natashi A. L., Assis, Geissianny B., Souza, Flaviana M., Durigan, Giselda
Restoration ecology 2019 v.27 no.3 pp. 569-580
cerrado, direct seeding, ecological invasion, ecosystems, grasslands, ground vegetation, herbaceous plants, land use change, seed germination, species reintroduction, species richness, topsoil, vegetation cover, Brazil
Neotropical grasslands have undergone intensive degradation by land conversion or biological invasion, but their restoration is still challenging. Here, we integrated two approaches to (1) assess the resilience of pristine dry and wet cerrado grasslands after removal of plants and topsoil and (2) evaluate the effectiveness of different treatments based on the material extracted from pristine grasslands to restore degraded dry and wet grasslands after pine invasion. We used old‐growth cerrado grasslands in southeastern Brazil as donor ecosystems and assessed their resilience after the removal of all plants and the upper 5‐cm soil layer. To restore both wet and dry grasslands, we tested topsoil translocation, plant transplantation, direct seeding, topsoil translocation + direct seeding, and needle layer removal. Both wet and dry grasslands were resilient to plants and topsoil removal, as evidenced by their fast recovery. The major mechanisms promoting resilience were seed germination in the wet grasslands and resprouting from underground organs in the dry grasslands. Transplantation was the most successful treatment to restore vegetation cover, species richness, and composition in both wet and dry grasslands, especially for herbaceous species. Restoration of the herbaceous layer of cerrado grasslands can be successful using natural ecosystems as donor sites without impairing their resilience in the studied scale. Improving the resilience of degraded dry and wet cerrado grasslands depends on reestablishing the condition to seed germination in the wet grasslands and reintroducing species with the ability to resprout after disturbance in the dry grasslands, attributes that explained the quick recovery of the donor ecosystems.