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Data from: The mechanisms affecting seedling establishment in restored savanna understories are seasonally dependent

Cite this dataset

Sorenson, Quinn M.; Damschen, Ellen I. (2020). Data from: The mechanisms affecting seedling establishment in restored savanna understories are seasonally dependent [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Globally, agricultural land is increasingly being abandoned with over 200 million hectares recovering from agricultural use. Regeneration of plant communities sharply differ in their structure and composition after agricultural impacts, yet the mechanisms underpinning these dramatic changes are poorly understood. It is critical to determine the relative importance of abiotic and biotic factors that limit plant establishment and success during the recovery process. In particular, belowground competition for resources in soils impacted by former agricultural uses may play an especially important role in limiting plant establishment. Yet, belowground competition is generally studied less than aboveground, especially in the context of land-use history. 2. We compare plant establishment with and without belowground competition in the context of a large-scale experiment manipulating land-use histories (i.e., with and without a history of agriculture) and restoration of historical vegetation structure (i.e., thinned and unthinned canopy trees) and determine how life stage and the local environment (e.g., soil water holding capacity, vegetation cover) impact this relationship. 3. For three of our four target species, belowground competition strongly limited establishment success, but did not interact with land-use history and canopy thinning directly. Instead, land-use history and canopy thinning interacted to affect establishment during germination and survival in spring, while belowground competition limited growth during the summer. The strength of belowground competition was affected by local resources, but the directionality of this relationship depended on agricultural history and canopy thinning. 4. Synthesis and application: Overall, we recommend confronting land-use legacies by overcoming dispersal limitation with seed additions (even in degraded sites) and ensuring that belowground structures are managed during restoration, especially in summer. In addition, managers should consider how the relationship between local resources and belowground competition at individual sites might depend on land-use history or canopy thinning.

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U.S. Southeast