• Identifying restoration opportunities beneath native mesquite canopies

      Gornish, Elise S.; Ganjurjav, Hasbagan; Liang, Maowei; Simonis, Juniper L.; McClaran, Mitchel P.; School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona (Wiley, 2021-02)
      Effective restoration strategies are needed to address habitat degradation that accompanies worldwide environmental change. One method used to enhance restoration outcomes is the leveraging of beneficial relationships (facilitation) among plants. In the southwestern United States, native mesquite trees (Prosopis spp.) are commonly planted to stabilize soil, but the value of using mesquite canopies for enhancing restoration success is unknown. We explored this possibility in an attempt to understand how common species, that both are and are not typically used for restoration, might differentially respond to mesquite canopies. We used a Bayesian multivariate generalized mixed model structure to analyze a dataset describing natural vegetation density in the Santa Rita Experimental Range, Arizona, United States. We found that more dominant species were not more likely to be distributed under mesquite. We also found that, while all of the focal species were more likely to be under mesquite with increased mesquite cover, they varied in the strength of their responses and the degree of saturation. Finally, we found that the aggressive invasive grass Eragrostis lehmanniana was found at lower incidences with increasing mesquite canopy cover, compared to the total species average as well as several of the natives investigated in this study. This work highlights the importance of being conscious of canopy size and continuity when considering understory species for restoration. This work also suggests that mesquite canopies can be used to provide a “safe site” for restoration species because competitive pressure from invasives is slightly reduced. © 2020 Society for Ecological Restoration