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Best served deep: The seedbank from salvaged topsoil underscores the role of the dispersal filter in restoration practice

Waryszak, P., Standish, R.J., Ladd, P.G.ORCID: 0000-0002-7730-9685, Enright, N.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-2979-4505, Brundrett, M., Fontaine, J.B.ORCID: 0000-0002-6515-7864 and Jimenez‐Alfaro, B. (2020) Best served deep: The seedbank from salvaged topsoil underscores the role of the dispersal filter in restoration practice. Applied Vegetation Science . Early View.

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Globally, ecological restoration is required to restore degraded landscapes and to contribute to biodiversity conservation. Ecological theory suggests that manipulating dispersal, abiotic and biotic filters limiting plant re‐establishment will improve restoration outcomes. Here, we manipulated spread depth of soil containing a salvaged soil seedbank (dispersal filter), soil compaction (abiotic filter) and herbivore grazing (biotic filter) in a topsoil transfer experiment to test their effects on restoration success.


Banksia woodland of the Swan Coastal Plain, Western Australia.


Topsoil (upper ~7 cm) with its seedbank was removed from a donor site (20 ha) of recently cleared native vegetation and transferred to six recipient restoration sites (16 ha). Deep (10 cm thick) and shallow (5 cm thick) layers of topsoil were applied in a fully factorial experiment, with and without soil ripping and fencing, respectively. We analysed emergence, survival and functional types (alien/native, life form, fire response) of all vascular plant species for two consecutive years after topsoil transfer.


The most successful restoration treatment was deep topsoil with a mean density of 14.3 m−2 native perennial germinants in year one and 7.3 m−2 in year two. Application of deep topsoil increased native seedling emergence by 34% and decreased weed density by 21% compared with shallow topsoil. Overall seedling survival across the two‐year period was unaffected by filter treatments (range 0.6%–5%). After two years, the resulting plant community was 6%–38% weed species and of native perennial species, 12%–48% were capable of resprouting.


Manipulation of the dispersal filter alone, that is deep topsoil application, can lead to near‐equivalent native species number emerging on restoration sites as compared to pre‐cleared woodland. However, more research is required to test additional restoration tools to improve survival of biodiverse plant communities. For example, targeted herbicide application coupled with soil ripping to improve weed management and native seedling establishment.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Copyright: © 2020 International Association for Vegetation Science
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