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      Abiotic and biotic responses to woody debris additions in restored old fields in a multi‐site Before‐After‐Control‐Impact experiment


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          Ecological restoration of former agricultural land can improve soil conditions, recover native vegetation, and provide fauna habitat. However, restoration benefits are often associated with time lags, as many attributes, such as leaf litter and coarse woody debris, need time to accumulate. Here, we experimentally tested whether adding mulch and logs to restoration sites in semi‐arid Western Australia can accelerate restoration benefits. All sites had been cropped and then planted with native trees and shrubs (i.e., Eucalyptus, Melaleuca, and Acacia spp.) 10 years prior to our experiment, to re‐establish the original temperate eucalypt woodland vegetation community. We used a Multi‐site Before‐After‐Control‐Impact (MBACI) design to test the effects on 30 abiotic and biotic response variables over a period of 2 years. Of the 30 response variables, a significant effect was found for just four variables: volumetric water content, decomposition, native herbaceous species cover and species richness of disturbance specialist ants. Mulch addition had a positive effect on soil moisture when compared to controls but suppressed growth of native (but not exotic) herbaceous plants. On plots with log additions, decomposition rates decreased, and species richness of disturbance specialist ants increased. However, we found no effect on total species richness and abundance of other ant species groups. The benefit of mulch to soil moisture was offset by its disbenefit to native herbs in our study. Given time, logs may also provide habitat for ant species that prefer concealed habitats. Indeed, benefits to other soil biophysical properties, vegetation, and ant fauna may require longer time frames to be detected. Further research is needed to determine whether the type, quantity, and context of mulch and log additions may improve their utility for old field restoration and whether effects on native herbs are correlated with idiosyncratic climatic conditions.


          Benefits of ecological restoration are often associated with time lags, as many attributes, such as leaf litter and coarse woody debris, need time to accumulate, particularly in arid ecosystems. Here we used a 2 year MBACI experiment to test if adding woody debris to restored eucalypt woodlands in semi‐arid western Australia can accelerate restoration outcomes. We found that only few abiotic and biotic variables responded positively, and conclude that detectable benefits of additional restoration actions may be slow in arid ecosystems.

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          Plant litter: Its dynamics and effects on plant community structure

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            On Beyond BACI: Sampling Designs that Might Reliably Detect Environmental Disturbances

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              What's new about old fields? Land abandonment and ecosystem assembly.

              Environmental and socio-economic changes are leading to increased levels of land abandonment worldwide. The assembly of plant communities on old fields has informed much ecological theory, which in turn has facilitated efforts at ecological restoration. The interaction of the cultivation legacy with inherent soil and vegetation characteristics will determine the dynamics of plant community assembly on old fields and indicate the level of effort required to restore historical vegetation states. The abandonment of traditional agricultural lands in some areas will create old fields that require limited or no restoration. Yet intensification of agriculture and rapid environmental change will lead to increasing numbers of old fields that show little recovery towards an historic vegetation state. The restoration of these old fields will pose significant scientific and policy challenges.

                Author and article information

                Ecol Evol
                Ecol Evol
                Ecology and Evolution
                John Wiley and Sons Inc. (Hoboken )
                04 July 2022
                July 2022
                : 12
                : 7 ( doiID: 10.1002/ece3.v12.7 )
                : e9058
                [ 1 ] Harry Butler Institute Murdoch University Murdoch Western Australia Australia
                [ 2 ] CSIRO Land and Water Wembley Western Australia Australia
                [ 3 ] School of Biological Sciences The University of Western Australia Crawley Western Australia Australia
                [ 4 ] CSIRO Agriculture and Food Glen Osmond Western Australia Australia
                Author notes
                [*] [* ] Correspondence

                Tina Parkhurst, Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150, Australia.

                Email: tina.parkhurst@ 123456murdoch.edu.au

                Author information
                ECE39058 ECE-2022-03-00400.R1
                © 2022 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

                This is an open access article under the terms of the http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 30 May 2022
                : 15 March 2022
                : 01 June 2022
                Page count
                Figures: 6, Tables: 0, Pages: 10, Words: 7386
                Funded by: Department of Education, Employment and workplace relations , doi 10.13039/100015539;
                Funded by: Bush Heritage Australia
                Funded by: Carbon Neutral Pty Ltd
                Funded by: National Landcare Programme , doi 10.13039/501100006645;
                Restoration Ecology
                Research Article
                Research Articles
                Custom metadata
                July 2022
                Converter:WILEY_ML3GV2_TO_JATSPMC version:6.1.7 mode:remove_FC converted:04.07.2022

                Evolutionary Biology
                formicidae,herbaceous vegetation,mbaci design,old field restoration,soil carbon,soil moisture,soil organic matter,woody debris


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