Seeding is not always necessary to restore native early successional plant communities

James Wade GeFellers, David A. Buehler, Christopher E. Moorman, John M. Zobel, Craig A. Harper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Restoration of native early successional plant communities in the eastern United States is a conservation priority because of declining populations of associated plants and wildlife. Restoration typically involves seeding native species and is often fraught with problems including weedy competition, expensive seed, and slow establishment. Pairing seed bank response with strategic herbicide applications may be an alternative approach for restoring these plant communities. We compared early successional plant communities established by seeding (SD) paired with selective herbicide use to natural revegetation (NR) from the seed bank paired with selective herbicide use at 18 locations that were previously row-crop or tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinaceus) fields in Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky, the United States. We did not detect differences in species diversity and richness, coverage of non-native grasses and forbs, or number and coverage of native flowering forbs by season between NR and SD treatments at tall fescue or fallow crop sites. Species evenness was greatest in NR and coverage of native-warm-season grasses in SD. Species richness and coverage of native forbs were least in untreated tall fescue units (CNTL). More flexibility to use herbicides with NR reduced coverage of sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata) in NR units compared to SD units at tall fescue sites. NR was 3.7 times cheaper than seeding. Land managers should consider using an NR approach to establish native early successional plant communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1485-1494
Number of pages10
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the field technicians that aided with data collections. We thank the National Park Service, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and L. McCool for logistical support. In addition, we thank the Tennessee Valley Authority, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for financial and logistical support.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Society for Ecological Restoration


  • herbicides
  • native species plantings
  • non-native species control
  • pollinators
  • seed bank
  • tall fescue


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