Soil pH influences patterns of plant community composition after restoration with native-based seed mixes

Kathryn M. Barlow, David A. Mortensen, Patrick J. Drohan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Reclamation of highly disturbed lands typically includes establishing fast-growing, non-native plants to achieve rapid ground cover for erosion control. Establishing native plant communities could achieve ecosystem functions beyond soil erosion, such as providing wildlife habitat. Pipelines, or other disturbed corridors through a landscape, present unique challenges for establishing native plant communities given the heterogeneity of soil environments and invasive plant propagule pressure. We created two structural equation models to address multiple related hypotheses about the influence of soil pH on plant community composition (current diversity and vegetative cover of the original restoration seed mix and background flora, and invasive plant density during mix establishment and current density) of a highly disturbed landscape corridor restored with native species. To test our hypotheses we conducted a plant survey on a gas pipeline crossing two state forests in the north-central Appalachians that had been seeded with a native-based mixture 8 years prior. Low soil pH was a strong predictor of density of the invasive annual plant, Microstegium vimineum, and had resulted in lower species diversity and cover of the seeded mix. Overall, our data provide evidence that native-based grass and forb mixtures can establish and persist on a wide range of soil environments and thrive in competition with invasive plants in moderately acidic to neutral soils. Advancing knowledge on restoration methods using native species is essential to improving restoration practice norms to incorporate multifunctional ecological goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)869-879
Number of pages11
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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