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Cheatgrass die-offs as an opportunity for restoration in the Great Basin, USA: Will local or commercial native plants succeed where exotic invaders fail?
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Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass) has widely invaded the Great Basin, U.S.A. The sporadic natural phenomenon of complete stand failure ('die-off') of this invader may present opportunities to restore native plants. A recent die-off in Nevada was precision-planted with seeds of the native grasses Poa secunda (Sandberg bluegrass) and Elymus elymoides (bottlebrush squirreltail), of both local and nonlocal origin, to ask: 1) Can native species be restored in recent B. tectorum die-offs? And 2) Do local and nonlocal seeds differ in performance? Additionally, we asked how litter removal and water addition affected responses. Although emergence and growth of native seeds was lower in die-off than control plots early in year one, in year two, seedlings in die-offs had increased vigor and growth, at equal or higher densities, than control plots. Local seeds consistently outperformed nonlocal seeds for P. secunda, whereas for E. elymoides, nonlocal showed an advantage in the first season, but in the second season, there were more local seeds present under die-off and unraked conditions. Seedbed treatments affected performance, but did not notably improve establishment or modify other results. Our results warrant further investigation into die-off restoration as well as recognition of the importance of seed source selection in restoration. (C) 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
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