Activated Carbon as a Restoration Tool: Potential for Control of Invasive Plants in Abandoned Agricultural Fields

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Restoration Ecology





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Exotic plants have been found to use allelochemicals, positive plant–soil feedbacks, and high concentrations of soil nutrients to exercise a competitive advantage over native plants. Under laboratory conditions, activated carbon (AC) has shown the potential to reduce these advantages by sequestering organic compounds. It is not known, however, if AC can effectively sequester organics or reduce exotic plant growth under field conditions. On soils dominated by exotic plants, we found that AC additions (1% AC by mass in the top 10 cm of soil) reduced concentrations of extractable organic C and N and induced consistent changes in plant community composition. The cover of two dominant exotics, Bromus tectorum and Centaurea diffusa, decreased on AC plots compared to that on control plots (14–8% and 4–0.1%, respectively), and the cover of native perennial grasses increased on AC plots compared to that on control plots (1.4–3% cover). Despite promising responses to AC by these species, some exotic species responded positively to AC and some native species responded negatively to AC. Consequently, AC addition did not result in native plant communities similar to uninvaded sites, but AC did demonstrate potential as a soil-based exotic plant control tool, especially for B. tectorum and C. diffusa.

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