This paper examines the effects of a single surface application of biosolids (at 20 dry Mg ha–1) on plant species composition, forage quality and quantity, and C stocks after 14 yr of rest in rangelands of the Central Interior of British Columbia. More than two times the aboveground biomass of grasses and the percent cover of plant litter were found in the biosolids treatment relative to the control, along with reductions in bare soil and microbiotic crust cover. Significantly greater plant uptake of all macronutrients (C, N, P, K, S, Ca, and Mg); most micronutrients (B, Cu, Mn, Mo, and Zn); and Al occurred in the biosolids treatment. P and Cu were the only two nutrients to be more concentrated in the biosolids-treated forage relative to the control forage, while N, Mg, and protein were more concentrated in the control forage. No significant difference in forage digestibility was found between biosolids and control treatments. Bluebunch wheatgrass, the late-seral native grass species, had significantly increased cover and aboveground biomass in the biosolids treatment relative to the control; however, between 2006 and 2016, non-native Kentucky bluegrass had reached > 25% cover in the biosolids plots, perhaps restricting the full recovery of bluebunch wheatgrass. Our findings indicate that biosolids application to ungrazed rangeland can increase long-term forage production and reduce bare soil. However, at our study site biosolids application also led to a long-term shift in the plant community composition away from the late-seral (i.e., bluebunch wheatgrass) trajectory, and the effects of this shift on rangeland health and productivity require further investigation.
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