Restoration groundwork: testing large-scale soil transplantation to facilitate rapid vegetation development on former arable fields

E.R.J. Wubs, W.H. van der Putten, T.M. Bezemer

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract

Abstract

The restoration of former arable fields to semi-natural grasslands is an important method for counteracting the loss of species rich grasslands. Restoration of these areas is a long process that may take decades or even centuries. High nutrient availability as well as lack of an appropriate seedbank are well-known bottlenecks for restoration. However, recent fundamental research into plant-soil interactions has demonstrated that the soil community also plays a crucial role in driving the secondary succession on ex-arable fields. Yet an explicit belowground perspective in nature restoration has so far not been applied in practice. Here we report the first field experiment transplanting soil communities from well-developed natural sites to a new restoration area performed at a spatial scale relevant for restoration practice. In 2006, transplantation of both soil from a species-rich grassland and a heathland were carried out in four replicate areas (2.5-5 ha) on an ex-arable field. To compare with conventional restoration measures hay was spread over similar areas and these treatments were executed both on the original soil as well as on areas where the top-soil had been removed. After six years the restoration success was evaluated by quantifying vegetation structure and composition. Furthermore, fungal, bacterial, nematode and microarthropod abundance and composition, as well as edaphic factors were measured. We show that the transplantations, particularly using heathland soil, has increased plant diversity and altered the plant community composition which became more like the target community. Furthermore, transplantation led to a more abundant, relatively more fungal-dominated, microbial community. Our results show, for the first time on a scale relevant for practitioners, that soil transplantation can be an effective measure to jump-start the restoration of species-rich vegetation on former arable fields by means of co-introduction of both seed material as well as the appropriate soil community.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventThe First GSBI Conference- Assessing Soil Biodiversity and its Role for Ecosystem Services, Dijon, France -
Duration: 2 Dec 20145 Dec 2014

Conference

ConferenceThe First GSBI Conference- Assessing Soil Biodiversity and its Role for Ecosystem Services, Dijon, France
Period2/12/145/12/14

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    Wubs, E. R. J., van der Putten, W. H., & Bezemer, T. M. (2014). Restoration groundwork: testing large-scale soil transplantation to facilitate rapid vegetation development on former arable fields. Abstract from The First GSBI Conference- Assessing Soil Biodiversity and its Role for Ecosystem Services, Dijon, France, .