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Invasive Species Impacts on Coastal Sage Scrub Recovery

  • Author(s): Griffoul, Emily
  • Advisor(s): Huxman, Travis
  • et al.

Significant resources are invested in the restoration of degraded Coastal Sage Scrub in Southern California to meet conservation goals. Thus, understanding the resilience of these systems is of great importance given their high value intersection with human settlements. The presence of invasive annual species has been suggested to add complexity to ecological restoration efforts by inhibiting the growth of native species, changing fire regimes, and altering water balance. To further understand these ideas, I utilized a long-term experiment testing the effectiveness of “passive” restoration, the removal of non-native species without expensive site preparation or resource-intensive active planting / seeding of native species, which means that the approach could be designed to have widespread positive effects at potentially minimal costs. I found that passive restoration was successful at meeting restoration goals of increasing native shrub cover. Two ecological mechanisms – the establishment of new individuals on the landscape versus the expansion of plant size of existing shrubs – were likely responsible for the variation in patterns of recovery for localities with different initial native shrub cover. These patterns give insight into how to affect change in communities through management intervention. Better formulating a conceptual model of the contemporary dynamics of Coastal Sage Scrub informs decisions on expending limited resources to different intensities of restoration across a complex landscape to maximally impact conservation.

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