Understory Vegetation change following woodland reduction varies by plant community type and seeding status: Region-wide assessment of ecological benefits and risks
Meta-analyses indicated that while P–J reduction caused significant positive overall effects on all shrub and herbaceous components (including invasive cheatgrass [Bromus tectorum] and exotic annual forbs), responses were contingent on treatment- and plant community-type combinations. Restoration seedings also had strong positive effects on understory vegetation by augmenting changes in perennial grass and perennial forb components, which similarly varied by plant community type. Collectively, our results identified specific situations where broad-scale efforts to reverse woodland encroachment substantially met short-term management goals of restoring valuable ecosystem services and where P–J reduction disposed certain plant community types to ecological risks, such as increasing the probability of native species displacement and stimulating an annual grass-fire cycle. Resource managers should carefully weigh these benefits and risks and incorporate additional, appropriate treatments and/or conservation measures for the unique preconditions of a given plant community in order to minimize exotic species responses and/or enhance desirable outcomes.