Drivers of seedling establishment success in dryland restoration efforts

Nancy Shackelford, Gustavo B. Paterno, Daniel E. Winkler, Todd E. Erickson, Elizabeth A. Leger, Lauren N. Svejcar, Martin F. Breed, Akasha M. Faist, Peter A. Harrison, Michael F. Curran, Qinfeng Guo, Anita Kirmer, Darin J. Law, Kevin Z. Mganga, Seth M. Munson, Lauren M. Porensky, R. Emiliano Quiroga, Peter Torok, Claire E. Wainwright, Ali AbdullahiMatt A. Bahm, Elizabeth A. Ballenger, Nichole Barger, Owen W. Baughman, Carina Becker, Manuel Esteban Lucas-Borja, Chad S. Boyd, Carla M. Burton, Philip J. Burton, Eman Calleja, Peter J. Carrick, Alex Caruana, Charlie D. Clements, Kirk W. Davies, Balazs Deak, Jessica Drake, Sandra Dullau, Joshua Eldridge, Erin Espeland, Hannah L. Farrell, Stephen E. Fick, Magda Garbowski, Enrique G. de la Riva, Peter J. Golos, Penelope A. Grey, Barry Heydenrych, Patricia M. Holmes, Jeremy J. James, Jayne Jonas-Bratten, Reka Kiss, Andrea T. Kramer, Julie E. Larson, Juan Lorite, C. Ellery Mayence, Luis Merino-Martin, Tamas Miglecz, Suanne Jane Milton, Thomas A. Monaco, Arlee M. Montalvo, Jose A. Navarro-Cano, Mark W. Paschke, Pablo Luis Peri, Monica L. Pokorny, Matthew J. Rinella, Nelmarie Saayman, Merilynn C. Schantz, Tina Parkhurst, Eric W. Seabloom, Katharine L. Stuble, Shauna M. Uselman, Orsolya Valko, Kari Veblen, Scott Wilson, Megan Wong, Zhiwei Xu, Katharine L. Suding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Restoration of degraded drylands is urgently needed to mitigate climate change, reverse desertification and secure livelihoods for the two billion people who live in these areas. Bold global targets have been set for dryland restoration to restore millions of hectares of degraded land. These targets have been questioned as overly ambitious, but without a global evaluation of successes and failures it is impossible to gauge feasibility. Here we examine restoration seeding outcomes across 174 sites on six continents, encompassing 594,065 observations of 671 plant species. Our findings suggest reasons for optimism. Seeding had a positive impact on species presence: in almost a third of all treatments, 100% of species seeded were growing at first monitoring. However, dryland restoration is risky: 17% of projects failed, with no establishment of any seeded species, and consistent declines were found in seeded species as projects matured. Across projects, higher seeding rates and larger seed sizes resulted in a greater probability of recruitment, with further influences on species success including site aridity, taxonomic identity and species life form. Our findings suggest that investigations examining these predictive factors will yield more effective and informed restoration decision-making.

The seeding of native species is critical to the success of dryland restoration efforts. Here the authors evaluate success of seeding establishment at 174 sites on six continents, finding that some sites had nearly 100% of species successfully recruit, while 17% of sites had zero seedling success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1283-1290
Number of pages8
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Volume5
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

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