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01-07-2008 | Issue 1/2008

Environmental Management 1/2008

An Evaluation of the Effects of Soil Characteristics on Mitigation and Restoration Involving Blue Elderberry, Sambucus mexicana

Journal:
Environmental Management > Issue 1/2008
Authors:
Molly Koch-Munz, Marcel Holyoak

Abstract

We conducted field surveys and laboratory analyses to test the effects of soil characteristics in habitat mitigation sites and natural sites on the growth and condition of blue elderberry (Sambucus mexicana), which is the sole host plant for the federally threatened Valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus). Thirty mitigation and 16 natural sites were selected throughout the range of the beetle. We found that although plant relative growth rates were comparable between mitigation sites and a natural site, mitigation sites contained substantially less soil nutrients than mitigation sites. Within mitigation sites, elderberry health and growth were positively correlated with the amount of total nitrogen in soils and less strongly with other soil nutrients and soil moisture. Analyses demonstrated reductions in the relative growth rate of elderberry as mitigation sites aged, and that soil nutrients and soil moisture became depleted over time. For mitigation sites, it took approximately seven years to develop basal stem diameters that have been linked to successful beetle colonization. Mitigation sites have smaller shrubs than natural sites and growth slows as mitigation sites age, thus delaying convergence of conditions between natural and mitigation sites. Analyses of soil particle size and whether sites were within the 100-year floodplain (as an indicator of riparian conditions) were inconclusive. We recommend investigating fertilizing and optimum planting densities for elderberry at restoration and mitigation sites, as well as increasing the duration of irrigation and monitoring.

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