Scattering slash (downed woody materials) after tree removal is increasingly prescribed by land managers as a treatment to promote the establishment and growth of understory vegetation in pinyon–juniper woodlands. However, the effects of scattering slash on soil resources and plant communities are poorly understood and often confounded with the release from tree competition. In order to examine how slash affects plant establishment, soil stability, soil nutrients, and soil microbiota, we initiated a 2 × 2 full factorial experiment with two levels of seeding and two levels of slash additions within 30 intercanopy spaces, repeated at two intact pinyon–juniper woodland sites with different soil characteristics in northwestern Arizona. Pretreatment data were collected in 2003 and posttreatment responses were measured in 2004 and 2005. Total plant cover increased within all treatments; however, grasses increased significantly only in the seed-and-slash treatment at both sites. In addition, a greater proportion of seed-and-slash plots contained more reproductively active grasses compared to seed-only plots. Slash treatments also resulted in significantly less sediment movement compared to nonslash treatments. Changes in soil nutrients were not observed, except available NO3-N decreased significantly in slash treatments. Arbuscular mycorrhizal potential and microbial biomass carbon increased as a result of the slash treatment. Addition of woody materials appeared to have general effectiveness at improving the ecological function of soils and promoting understory establishment and thus may be considered a desirable treatment for improving degraded conditions.
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Vol. 61 • No. 5