Date of Award:

5-2018

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Ecology

Committee

Kristin Hulvey

Committee

Douglas A. Johnson

Committee

Kari Veblen

Abstract

Public land management agencies, conservation organizations, and landowners are interested in expanding the diversity of plant species used in rangeland restoration seedings. While the restoration of native grasses and shrubs in the Great Basin has become increasingly successful, restoration of native forbs continues to be problematic. In the Great Basin, soil water availability and soil fungal pathogens are thought to limit to restoration success. During the course of two years, we conducted two field experiments at three sites in the Great Basin that spanned a latitudinal gradient encompassing different precipitation and temperature patterns.

In the first experiment, we evaluated two treatments for enhancing native forb restoration – snow fences and N-sulate fabric. In addition, we tested whether multiple fungicide and hydrophobic seed coatings could reduce seed and seedling mortality from soil fungal pathogens. To quantify the effectiveness of treatments, we tracked the fate of sown seeds over four life stages: germination, seedling emergence, establishment, and second-year survival. We found that snow fences and N-sulate fabric had varying degrees of success for increasing seedling emergence or establishment but ultimately did not increase second-year survival. Seed coatings increased seedling emergence but did not increase establishment or second-year survival.

In the second experiment, we replicated the first experiment and also measured soil water availability to better understand how snow fences and N-sulate fabric alter soil water availability, and if differences in soil water availability can explain restoration outcomes. While we found that our treatments can increase soil water availability, increased soil water did not consistently result in better restoration outcomes. Snow fences did not benefit any life stage at any site while N-sulate fabric had positive and negative effects on forb restoration depending on the site. Seed coatings increased seedling emergence and establishment at all sites, warranting further research with other forb species. Results from both experiments provide insights for developing new treatments and techniques that can improve native forb restoration in the Great Basin and similar semiarid systems.

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