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Identifying mechanisms for successful ecological restoration with salvaged topsoil in coastal sage scrub communities

Citation

Maltz, Mia; Schmid, Katharina (2020), Identifying mechanisms for successful ecological restoration with salvaged topsoil in coastal sage scrub communities, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.6086/D1TH5K

Abstract

Although above-ground metrics remain the standard, restoring functional ecosystems should promote both above- and belowground biotic communities. Restoration using salvaged soil — removal and translocation of topsoil from areas planned for development, with subsequent deposition at degraded sites — is an alternative to traditional methods. Salvaged soil contains both seed and spore banks, which may holistically augment restoration. Salvaged soil methods may reduce non-native germination by burying non-native seeds, increase native diversity by adding native seeds, or transfer soil microbiomes, including AMF, to recipient sites. We transferred soil to three degraded recipient sites and monitored soil microbes using flow cytometry and molecular analyses, and characterized the plant community composition. Our findings suggest that salvaged soil at depths 5 cm reduced non-native grass cover and increased native plant density and species richness. Bacterial abundance at recipient sites was statistically equivalent to donor sites abundance. Overall, topsoil additions affected AMF alpha diversity and community composition, and increased rhizophilic AMF richness. Because salvaged soil restoration combines multiple soil components, including native plant and microbial propagules, it may promote both above- and below-ground qualities of the donor site, when applying this method for restoring invaded and degraded ecosystems.