Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 665–680 | Cite as

Importance of species diversity in the revegetation of Alberta’s northern fescue prairies

Original Paper

Abstract

Restoration of grassland ecosystems is critical to the provision of ecosystem services, however, legacies of historic disturbances pose a challenge to grassland restoration. In the northern Great Plains of North America, continued fragmentation and disturbance of northern fescue prairies has prompted more stringent criteria to regulate the revegetation of native prairies disturbed by industrial activities. Here, we evaluate methods of revegetating northern fescue prairies, disturbed by energy development, and test the hypothesis that higher richness of species seeded within disturbed areas improves the structure, diversity, and composition of revegetated communities. Our results demonstrate that disturbed northern fescue prairies are able to recover their structural elements, including vegetative and ground cover and plant litter, irrespective of the number of species in the seed mixes, even though revegetated areas remained similar in all measures of community diversity. Despite this, revegetated areas remained compositionally different from adjacent native prairies, 7 years following seeding treatments. Based on our observations, the persistent differences in the species composition of disturbed and undisturbed prairies highlight that all efforts should be practiced to minimize the scale of disturbance of northern fescue prairies through energy development.

Keywords

Ecological function Native prairie Restoration Species richness Grassland diversity 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was funded by: Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada through the Alberta Upstream Petroleum Research Fund and the University of Winniepg. We gratefully acknowledged Patrick Porter, Land Management Branch, Alberta Environment & Parks, Wainwright; Heather Sinton, Alberta Environment & Parks, Calgary; Marshall McKenzie, Alberta InnovatesTechnology Futures, various industry operators that provided sites for the study and other collaborators from the former Alberta Research Council, namely Michelle Pahl, Byron James, and Natasha Page. We also acknowledge Nicholas Palaschuk, Department of Biology, University of Winnipeg.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Woosaree Environmental Inc.EdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of WinnipegWinnipegCanada

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