Native seed reintroduction experiment
The renowned biodiversity of Florida’s native longleaf pine savannas depends upon a diverse array of plant functional groups, including legumes, large-seeded grasses, mast-producing shrubs, and forbs. All of these groups contain wildlife food plants that are of direct importance to numerous game and nongame species, and play important roles in the functioning of the ecosystem as a whole. In many cases, if these key plant functional groups are to be restored, they must be intentionally established due to the loss of native seed banks on intensively farmed sites. However, there are technical obstacles to reintroducing many wildlife food plants, which tend to be late-successional habitat specialists, and there is a lack of guidance and information on which species to plant, where to plant them, and how to plant them. The purpose of this research is to help close this knowledge gap regarding native plant restoration by identifying the ecological barriers to native plant germination and establishment on restored sites.
We are conducting an experiment designed to determine the relative importance of three major ecological factors that are believed to drive community assembly on restored grasslands: 1) Seed arrival (which functional groups are introduced to the site, and when); 2) Interspecific competition (whether species suppress or facilitate the establishment of other species both within and outside their own functional groups); and 3) Environmental filters (the influences of fire and rainfall on seedling establishment and interactions between species). The results of this study will help us determine when and how to restore a balance of plant functional groups to restored sites.