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1 January 2018 Evaluating a Seed Technology for Sagebrush Restoration Across an Elevation Gradient: Support for Bet Hedging
K.W. Davies, C.S. Boyd, M.D. Madsen, J. Kerby, A. Hulet
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Abstract

Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) restoration is needed across vast areas, especially after large wildfires, to restore important ecosystemservices. Sagebrush restoration success is inconsistent, with a high rate of seeding failures, particularly at lower elevations. Seed enhancement technologies may overcome limitations to restoration success. Seed pillows are one such technology designed to improve seed-soil contact in broadcast seedings by providing a favorable medium for seedling establishment and growth. Seed pillows have shown promising results in greenhouse studies; however, they have not been evaluated in the field. We compared broadcast-seeding seed pillows with broadcast-seeding bare seed in 2 yr across a large, burned elevation gradient. Compared with bare seed, we found no evidence that seed pillows improved sagebrush establishment and growth across the elevation gradient. Though our results suggest that seed pillows do not increase the likelihood of successful sagebrush restoration, they were successful at times when bare seeds were not, and the same was true for bare seeds. At least one of the two treatments was successful at 50% of the elevations over the 2 seeding yr. This suggests that a bet hedging approach, seeding both bare seed and seed pillows, may increase the probability of success. Further supporting the use of bet hedging, if both methods were used and seeding occurred in both years, success would have been 86%. Sagebrush density and cover varied by elevation. In the first-yr seeding, sagebrush density and cover generally increased with increasing elevation. In the second-yr seeding, sagebrush density and cover were greatest at the lowest and highest elevations. We speculate that at the lower elevations an unusually wet spring combined with limited herbaceous vegetation provided an ideal environment for sagebrush establishment and growth. Our results also demonstrate, counter to common assumptions, that lower elevations sagebrush seedings can be successful.

Published by Elsevier Inc. on behalf of The Society for Range Management.
K.W. Davies, C.S. Boyd, M.D. Madsen, J. Kerby, and A. Hulet "Evaluating a Seed Technology for Sagebrush Restoration Across an Elevation Gradient: Support for Bet Hedging ," Rangeland Ecology and Management 71(1), 19-24, (1 January 2018). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2017.07.006
Received: 17 May 2017; Accepted: 1 July 2017; Published: 1 January 2018
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KEYWORDS
Artemisia tridentata
broadcast-seeding
sagebrush steppe
shrubs
wildfire
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