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Wyoming big sagebrush transplant survival and growth affected by age, season of planting, and competition

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We tested how sagebrush transplant survival and size (canopy volume) are affected by age at the time of planting (10 classes, 6−24 wk), planting season (fall versus spring), and invasive annual grass competition (low/high) with a randomized factorial design over 2 yr. Survival was lower for age classes under 10 or 12 wk (in yr 1 and 2, respectively) but relatively similar from 12 to 24 wk. Fall-planted transplants had lower survival but increased canopy volume compared with spring-planted transplants. Survival and canopy volume decreased with competition with annual grasses. Our results suggest that land managers should consider planting younger transplants than previously thought and controlling invasive annual grasses before planting sagebrush transplants to increase long-term survival and canopy volume.

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Society for Ecological Restoration 2024 North American Conference

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The SER North American 2024 Conference will provide an interactive forum to learn and share about the science and practice of ecological restoration across ecosystems and disciplines to better connect a diverse and engaged restoration community.

Conference Theme – Cross-Biome Connections: Ecological Restoration on a Diverse Continent
The SER North American 2024 Conference will provide an interactive forum to learn and share about the science and practice of ecological restoration across ecosystems and disciplines to better connect a diverse and engaged restoration community. SER 2024 North American Conference is being planned in cooperation with SER-North West, SER- Western Canada and other partners in North America, the home of many histories, heritages, backgrounds and Indigenous communities.

Attendees can expect to:

  • Learn about new theories, approaches and practices in a transdisciplinary environment.
  • Share your experiences with ecological restoration across biomes, ecosystems and communities.
  • Connect with a diverse group to improve ecological restoration and conservation across North America
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Matching existing and future native plant materials to disturbance‐driven restoration needs

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Assessing the appropriateness of existing native plant materials can both determine which seed source to utilize for restoration projects, and identify locations for which new seed sources need to be developed. Here, we demonstrate an approach to meet these needs. This method identifies areas of high restoration need based on disturbance patterns, assesses the regional suitability of existing native plant materials based on climate similarity, and highlights geographic (and climatic) gaps where existing materials are likely unsuitable and where plant material development projects can be prioritized. We examined 12 high priority restoration species across the Colorado Plateau, a 38‐million‐ha region of the Intermountain West, United States to test our methodological pipeline. Fifty‐four percent of the Colorado Plateau is disturbed by livestock grazing, wildfires that have burned in the past 20 years, or energy production from oil and gas wells, natural gas pipelines, and coal mines. Of the 28 commercially available plant materials for six of the focal species, only 3 have climate similarity that encompass more than 50% of the species modeled habitat on the Colorado Plateau. Across all commercial materials, most species (10 of 12) do not have any suitable plant material for 70% or more of their geographic range on the Colorado Plateau. Of those areas identified as not having any suitable plant materials, 47–56% are also disturbed. Our method provides usable, flexible protocols and spatially referenced data sources for optimizing the planning of new native plant materials in any region where restoration is needed and spatial data are available.

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Landscape restoration and plants: SCIENCEx genetics series

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Introduction – Vicky Erickson
An updated approach to generalized seed transfer strategies – Elizabeth Milano
Managing for genetic resistance to white pine blister rust – Anna Schoettle
Restoring ash: Breeding for resistance to the emerald ash borer – Jennifer Koch
Facilitator: Cherie Fisher

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Creating restored plant communities more resistant to invasion

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Restoration ecology aims to creating successful and resistant plant communities. A better scientific understanding of plant interactions and how plant communities are built, helps creating restored communities more resistant to invasion. This avoids the need of controlling non-native invasive species and reduce costs of restoration. We will present an overview about the need to create communities more resistant to invasion, and on invasive species control in restoration, and how plant-fungi interactions can be used as a tool to reduce invasive species.

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Soil seed bank composition and spatial distribution in cheatgrass-dominated rangeland in Colorado

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Invasion by nonnative annual plants that form prolific seed banks, including cheatgrass, throughout western North America is a major natural resource concern. Even with known economic and ecological implications, soil seed banks and their potential to impact ecological restoration in arid and semiarid ecosystems are poorly understood. Quantifying the regenerative potential of the soil seed bank—the living seeds in the soil profile and on the soil surface—can help natural resource managers make decisions to increase the likelihood of restoration success. We analyzed the germinable soil seed bank composition and distribution of a rangeland site in western Colorado that experienced a wildfire in 1994 and is dominated by cheatgrass. We collected soil seed bank samples from 118 points in a 100 × 110 m grid to a depth of 5 cm. Each sample was split by depth from 0 to 2 cm and from 2 to 5 cm, and the seed bank was quantified using greenhouse emergence methods. We found that seeds of native species were more dense and evenly distributed (3391 seeds ⋅ m−2than seeds of nonnative species were (1880 seeds ⋅ m−2) in the 0–5 cm seed bank across the site. We also found that seeds of both native and nonnative species were concentrated in the 0–2 cm layer of the seed bank but that native and nonnative seeds were present in substantive densities in the 2–5 cm layer. These findings suggest that the soil seed bank of the site is resilient, and a targeted approach to specifically deplete the seed bank of nonnative annuals could facilitate restoration by the in situ native seed bank.

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Carbon sequestration in degraded Intermountain West rangelands, US

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Rangelands are often ignored in the discussion of using management to sequester carbon; however, demonstrating that carbon storage could be paid by carbon credit markets would be a significant advancement for rangeland conservation. The additional amount and cost of carbon sequestered was quantified by simulating seeding perennial grass and shrub species in sagebrush shrublands dominated by non-native annual grass and forb species (NNAGF) compared with doing nothing in a 485 623 km² area of interest (AOI) centered around Nevada, United States.

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Potential to improve Wyoming big sagebrush establishment with a root-enhancement seed technology

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Restoration of the foundational species, big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.), of the sagebrush steppe biome has not kept pace with the loss of habitat, demanding new tools to improve its restoration. Seed enhancement technology (SET) is one approach that is increasingly being tested in native plant restoration as a means to overcome establishment barriers. Like many semiarid shrubs, sagebrush faces establishment barriers from inadequate moisture, competition from faster-growing grasses, and limited available nutrients. We performed a series of laboratory trials testing whether nutrient amendments could be applied to sagebrush seed using a SET to increase root length and biomass, thereby potentially increasing seedling survival. We initially tested 11 amendments applied directly to bare seeds; of these, a high-phosphorus fertilizer resulted in a 2.7x increase in root biomass and 71-mm increase in root length over the control. We then tested incorporating this fertilizer at multiple concentrations into a pellet SET and a ground dust. Although the fertilizer, particularly at higher concentrations, conferred some enhancement to seedling biomass, the pellet treatments had substantially lower emergence and survival than bare seed and dust treatments. These results indicate the potential for a “root-enhancement” SET to benefit sagebrush and other species like it; they also illustrate some of the challenges of SET development for native species. Sagebrush has small seeds that typically need light to germinate. Further work is needed to develop an appropriate technology that does not negatively impact emergence but still provides enough nutrients for enhanced root growth. Field testing is also needed to determine if increases in root growth translate into greater survival. Given the low success rate of sagebrush seeding in restoration projects, however, we suggest that it is worth considering root-enhancement SET alongside other efforts to improve sagebrush establishment success.

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National Native Seed Virtual Conference

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The National Native Seed Conference (NNSC) is excited to announce a virtual conference in 2024! The NNSC connects research, industry, land management, and restoration professionals, providing the premier opportunity to develop relationships and share information about the collection, research and development, production, and use of native plant materials.

Our next event will be a virtual conference on February 7-8, 2024. The conference will be held from 8am – 2pm Pacific.

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Society for Range Management – 2024 Annual Meeting

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This year’s meeting will be January 28-February 1, 2024 in Sparks, NV.

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