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Trait-Based Approaches to Dryland Restoration

Balazs, Kathleen Renee (2021) Trait-Based Approaches to Dryland Restoration. Doctoral thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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Land degradation leads to the loss of ecosystem functioning such as primary productivity, weed suppression, and erosion mitigation. Trait-based approaches to restoration can improve the outcome of restoration treatments, especially in challenging areas to restore such as drylands. Each of the chapters in my dissertation address trait based approached to dryland restoration: chapters 2 and 3 are focused on improving the survival of restoration seeding and planting treatments by matching plant traits to environmental conditions and chapter 4 addresses the issue of rebuilding ecosystem functioning through restoration. Chapter 2 involves an analysis of a long-term restoration outcomes database for the Colorado Plateau, I found that matching trait values to environmental conditions improved restoration outcome. In this case temperature seasonality along with seed mass and plant height best predicted seeding success. This chapter had some limitations since I was working with a large database and additional trait data were not available, therefore chapter 3 investigates similar questions with a more controlled approach that gave higher-resolution data to compare number of individuals that survived versus what was planted. Most restoration of large areas is done with seeding, however the experiment in chapter 3 and 4 jump-started the establishment of restoration species through a transplant experiment so I could investigate additional questions such as the impact of the restored community on ecosystem processes. Through the RestoreNet biodiversity-ecosystem functioning experiment I had two main questions: how does plant functional composition influence survival in restoration? And, once established, how does a restored community influence ecosystem functioning? First, I found that the species with greatest survival had multiple trait strategies including drought tolerance and drought escape. A combination of slow-growing drought tolerant leaves and fast-growing, drought escaping roots promoted survival across sites. Additionally, in chapter 4 I found that recovery of aboveground primary productivity supported the recovery of other ecosystem functions including weed suppression and erosion mitigation. There were certain trait strategies, such as drought tolerant, yet acquisitive leaves and roots that lead to greater aboveground productivity. These results can aid land managers in selecting the species to use in restoration that can establish given the conditions of a site, and that have a positive impact on rebuilding ecosystem functions of concern. These trait-based approaches are a powerful tool for drylands that are difficult to restore but cover nearly half the earth’s terrestrial surface.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: Dryland restoration; Land degradation; Trait-based approaches; Dry land ecology; Soil restoration
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences > Biological Sciences
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2022 16:58
Last Modified: 19 May 2022 08:30
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5718

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