Skip to main content

Efficacy of Exotic Control Strategies for Restoring Coastal Prairie Grasses

  • Karen D. Holl (a1), Elizabeth A. Howard (a2), Timothy M. Brown (a2), Robert G. Chan (a1), Tara S. de Silva (a1), E. Tyler Mann (a3), Jamie A. Russell (a1) and William H. Spangler (a2)...

Restoration in Mediterranean-climate grasslands is strongly impeded by lack of native propagules and competition with exotic grasses and forbs. We report on a study testing several methods for exotic plant control combined with planting native grasses to restore prairies in former agricultural land in coastal California. Specifically we compared tarping (shading out recently germinated seedlings with black plastic) once, tarping twice, topsoil removal, herbicide (glyphosate), and a control treatment in factorial combinations with or without wood mulch. Into each treatment we planted three native grass species (Elymus glaucus, Hordeum brachyantherum, and Stipa pulchra) and monitored plant survival and cover for three growing seasons. Survival of native grass species was high in all treatments, but was slightly lower in unmulched soil removal and control treatments in the first 2 yr. Mulching, tarping, and herbicide were all effective in reducing exotic grass cover and enhancing native grass cover for the first 2 yr, but by the third growing season cover of the plant guilds and bare ground had mostly converged, primarily because of the declining effects of the initial treatments. Mulching and tarping were both considerably more expensive than herbicide treatment. Topsoil removal was less effective in increasing native grass cover likely because soil removal altered the surface hydrology in this system. Our results show that several treatments were effective in enhancing native grass establishment, but that longer term monitoring is needed to evaluate the efficacy of restoration efforts. The most appropriate approach to controlling exotics to restore specific grassland sites will depend not only on the effectiveness, but also on relative costs and site constraints.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author's E-mail:
Hide All
Baldwin, BG, Goldman, DH, Keil, DJ, Patterson, R, Rosatti, TJ, Wilken, DH (2012) The Jepson manual vascular plants of California. Berkeley, CA University of California Press. 1600 p
Biederman, LA, Whisenant, SW (2009) Organic amendments direct grass population dynamics in a landfill prairie restoration. Ecol Eng 35:678686
Buisson, E, Anderson, S, Holl, KD, Corcket, E, Hayes, GF, Peeters, A, Dutoit, T (2008) Reintroduction of Nassella pulchra to California coastal grasslands: Effects of topsoil removal, plant neighbour removal and grazing. Appl Veg Sci 11:195204
Buisson, E, Holl, KD, Anderson, S, Corcket, E, Hayes, GF, Torre, F, Peteers, A, Dutoit, T (2006) Effect of seed source, topsoil removal, and plant neighbor removal on restoring California coastal prairies. Restor Ecol 14:569577
Chalker-Scott, L (2007) Impact of mulches on landscape plants and the environment—a review. J Environ Hortic 25:239249
City of Sebastopol (2000) Resolution No. 5108 Creating a voluntary toxics-free zone to reduce the use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals in the city of Sebastopol. Accessed February 7, 2014
Concilio, AL (2013) Effectiveness and cost of downy brome (Bromus tectorum) control at high elevation. Inv Plant Sci Manage 6:502511
Corbin, JD, D'Antonio, CM (2004) Competition between native perennial and exotic annual grasses: implications for an historical invasion. Ecology 85:12731283
Corbin, JF, D'Antonio, CM, Bainbridge, SJ (2004) Tipping the balance in the restoration of native plants. Pp. 154179 in Gordon, MS, Bartol, SM, eds. Experimental approaches to conservation biology. Berkeley, CA University of California Press
Cornish, PS, Burgin, S (2005) Residual effects of glyphosate herbicide in ecological restoration. Restor Ecol 13:695702
Cox, RD, Allen, EB (2008) Stability of exotic annual grasses following restoration efforts in southern California coastal sage scrub. J Appl Ecol 45:495504
Cox, RD, Allen, EB (2011) The roles of exotic grasses and forbs when restoring native species to highly invaded southern California annual grassland. Plant Ecol 212:16991707
Diaz, A, Green, I, Tibbett, M (2008) Re-creation of heathland on improved pasture using top soil removal and sulphur amendments: Edaphic drivers and impacts on ericoid mycorrhizas. Biol Conserv 141:16281635
El-Keblawy, A, Al-Hamadi, F (2009) Assessment of the differential response of weeds to soil solarization by two methods. Weed Biol Manag 9:7278
Farrell, S, Stafford, M, Berthelsen, M, Haines, S (2007) The Watershed Project, Final Report fo the the University of California, Richmond Field Station Remediation and Restoration Project, Habitat Restoration Progress Report 2003-2007. Berkeley, CA Tetra Tech EM Inc. 77 p
Ford, LD, Hayes, GF (2007) Northern coastal scrub and coastal prairie. Pp. 180207 in Barbour, M, Keeler-Wolf, T, Schoenherr, AA, eds. Terrestrial Vegetation of California, 3rd edition. Berkeley University of California Press
Gaertner, M, Den Breeyen, A, Cang, Hui, Richardson, DM (2009) Impacts of alien plant invasions on species richness in Mediterranean-type ecosystems: a meta-analysis. Prog Phys Geogr 33:319338
Hayes, GF, Holl, KD (2011) Manipulating disturbance regimes and seeding to restore mesic Mediterranean grasslands. Appl Veg Sci 14:304315
Hobbs, RJ, Yates, S, Mooney, HA (2007) Long-term data reveal complex dynamics in grassland in relation to climate and disturbance. Ecol Monogr 77:545568
Hoekstra, JM, Boucher, TM, Ricketts, TH, Roberts, C (2005) Confronting a biome crisis: global disparities of habitat loss and protection. Ecol Lett 8:2329
Huddleston, R, Young, TP (2005) Weed control and soil amendment effects on restoration plantings in an Oregon grassland. West N Am Nat 65:507515
Huntsinger, L, Johnson, M, Stafford, M, Fried, J (2010) Hardwood rangeland landowners in California from 1985 to 2004: production, ecosystem services, and permanence. Range Ecol Manage 63:324334
Hutchinson, RA, Viers, JH (2011) Tarping as an alternative for perennial pepperweed (Lepidium latifolium) control. Inv. Plant Sci Manage 4:6672
Irvine, IC, Witter, MS, Brigham, CA, Martiny, JBH (2013) Relationships between methylobacteria and glyphosate with native and invasive plant species: implications for restoration. Restor Ecol 21:105113
Keeley, JE (2002) Fire management of California shrubland landscapes. Environ Manag 29:395408
Kephart, P (2001) Resource management demonstration at Russian ridge preserve. Grasslands 11:1,810
Kettenring, KM, Adams, CR (2011) Lessons learned from invasive plant control experiments: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Appl Ecol 48:970979
Klimkowska, A, Kotowski, W, van Diggelen, R, Grootjans, AP, Dzierza, P, Brzezinska, K (2010) Vegetation re-development after fen meadow restoration by topsoil removal and hay transfer. Restor Ecol 18:924933
Lambrecht, SC, D'Amore, A (2010) Solarization for non-native plant control in cool, coastal California. Ecol Restor 28:424426
Lichvar, RW (2013) The national wetland plant list: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 49:1241
Mann, ET (2012) Efficacy of exotic control strategies on the survival and cover of California coastal prairie grasses. B.S. Thesis. Santa Cruz University of California. 20 p
Marushia, RG, Allen, EB (2011) Control of exotic annual grasses to restore native forbs in abandoned agricultural land. Restor Ecol 19:4554
Matthews, JW, Spyreas, G (2010) Convergence and divergence in plant community trajectories as a framework for monitoring wetland restoration progress. J Appl Ecol 47:11281136
Moyes, AB, Witter, MS, Gamon, JA (2005) Restoration of native perennials in a California annual grassland after prescribed spring burning and solarization. Restor Ecol 13:659666
Nyamai, PA, Prather, TS, Wallace, JM (2011) Evaluating restoration methods across a range of plant communities dominated by invasive annual grasses to native perennial grasses. Inv Plant Sci Manage 4:306316
Olsson, PA, Ödman, AM (2014) Natural establishment of specialist plant species after topsoil removal and soil perturbation in degraded calcareous sandy grassland. Restor Ecol 22:4956
Pfeifer-Meister, L, Johnson, BR, Roy, BA, Carreno, S, Stewart, JL, Bridgham, SD (2012) Restoring wetland prairies: tradeoffs among native plant cover, community composition, and ecosystem functioning. Ecosphere 3:Article 121
Rein, FA, Los Huertos, M, Holl, KD, Langenheim, JH (2007) Restoring native grasses as vegetative buffers in a coastal California agricultural landscape. Madroño 54:249257
Rinella, MJ, Mangold, JM, Espeland, EK, Sheley, RL, Jacobs, JS (2012) Long-term population dynamics of seeded plants in invaded grasslands. Ecol Appl 22:13201329
Rinella, MJ, Maxwell, BD, Fay, PK, Weaver, T, Sheley, RL (2009) Control effort exacerbates invasive-species problem. Ecol Appl 19:155162
Rodriguez, AM, Jacobo, EJ (2013) Glyphosate effects on seed bank and vegetation composition of temperate grasslands. Appl Veg Sci 16:5162
Seabloom, EW (2011) Spatial and temporal variability in propagule limitation of California native grasses. Oikos 120:291301
Seabloom, EW, Borer, ET, Boucher, VL, Burton, RS, Cottingham, KL, Goldwasser, L, Gram, WK, Kendall, BE, Micheli, F (2003) Competition, seed limitation, disturbance, and reestablishment of California native annual forbs. Ecol Appl 13:575592
Stapleton, JJ (2000) Soil solarization in various agricultural production systems. Crop Prot 19:837841
Stromberg, MR, D'Antonio, CM, Young, TP, Wirka, J, Kephart, PR (2007) California grassland restoration. Pp. 254280 in Stromberg, MR, Corbin, JD, D'Antonio, CM, eds. California Grasslands. Berkeley, CA University of California Press
Stromberg, MR, Kephart, P, Yadon, V (2001) Composition, invasibility, and diversity in coastal California grasslands. Madrono 48:236252
Tang, M (2013) Effects of mulch, planting design, and mowing on native plant restoration in a California coastal prairie. B.S. Thesis. Santa Cruz University of California. 22 p
Weiss, SB (1999) Cars, cows, and checkerspot butterflies: nitrogen deposition and management of nutrient-poor grasslands for a threatened species. Conserv Biol 13:14761486
Wilson, SD, Bakker, JD, Christian, JM, Li, XD, Ambrose, LG, Waddington, J (2004) Semiarid old-field restoration: Is neighbor control needed? Ecol Appl 14:476484
Zink, TA, Allen, MF (1998) The effects of organic amendments on the restoration of a disturbed coastal sage scrub habitat. Restor Ecol 6:5258
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Invasive Plant Science and Management
  • ISSN: 1939-7291
  • EISSN: 1939-747X
  • URL: /core/journals/invasive-plant-science-and-management
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Holl supplementary material
Table S1

 Word (16 KB)
16 KB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed