Welcome to the California Native Grasslands Association
Celebrating and conserving the ecological richness of California's grasslands

Current Grassland Research & Publications

Research Articles

Seed banks of native forbs, but not exotic grasses, increase during extreme drought. April 2018. Ecology 99 (4):896-903. Marina L. LaForgia,  Marko J. Spasojevic,  Erica J. Case,  Andrew M. Latimer,  Susan P. Harrison

Abstract Extreme droughts such as the one that affected California in 2012–2015 have been linked to severe ecological consequences in perennial‐dominated communities such as forests. In annual communities, drought impacts are difficult to assess because many species persist through facultative multiyear seed dormancy, which leads to the development of seed banks. Impacts of extreme drought on the abundance and composition of the seed banks of whole communities are little known. In 80 heterogeneous grassland plots where cover is dominated by ~15 species of exotic annual grasses and diversity is dominated by ~70 species of native annual forbs, we grew out seeds from soil cores collected early in the California drought (2012) and later in the multiyear drought (2014), and analyzed drought‐associated changes in the seed bank. Over the course of the study we identified more than 22,000 seedlings to species. We found that seeds of exotic annual grasses declined sharply in abundance during the drought while seeds of native annual forbs increased, a pattern that resembled but was even stronger than the changes in aboveground cover of these groups. Consistent with the expectation that low specific leaf area (SLA) is an indicator of drought tolerance, we found that the community‐weighted mean SLA of annual forbs declined both in the seed bank and in the aboveground community, as low‐SLA forbs increased disproportionately. In this system, seed dormancy reinforces the indirect benefits of extreme drought to the native forb community.

California's native perennial grasses provide strong suppression of goatgrass and medusahead. Winter 2018. Grasslands 28(1): 3-6. Valarie Eviner and Carolyn Malmstrom. 

California's native grasses have the ability to suppress noxious weeds and prevent them from dominating grasslands when naturalized annual exotics, which can out-compete native grasses, are controlled. 

Implications of plant functional traits and drought survival strategies for ecological restoration. 24 July 2017. Journal of Applied Ecology (online) DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12979. By Jennifer A. Balachowski and Florence A. Volaire

The authors measured seasonal growth and foliar and root functional traits under non-limiting water conditions, followed by recovery after severe drought in four populations of Elymus glaucus.  Dehydration tolerance and summer dormancy were associated with a more conservative strategy (lower productivity, lower Specific Leaf Area and Specific Root Length), as well as earlier reproductive phenology. The authors discuss the implication that restored populations with superior drought survival may therefore be less competitive, and recommend further investigation to inform plant materials selection protocols and management practices

Livestock grazing supports native plants and songbirds in a California annual grassland. PLoS ONE 12(6) (June 14, 2017) : e0176367. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0176367.  By Sasha Gennet, Erica Spotswood,, Michele Hammond, James W. Bartolome.  

An 8-year study in central California finds livestock grazing can be compatible with or support grassland bird conservation. --Michele Hammond is a current serving on the CNGA Board of Directors. 

The economic value of grassland species for carbon storage. Science Advances. 05 APR 2017: E1601880. By Bruce A. Hungate, Edward B. Barbier, Amy W. Ando, Samuel P. Marks, Peter B. Reich, Natasja Van Gestel, David Tilman, Johannes M. H. Knops, David U. Hooper, Bradley J. Butterfield, Bradley J. Cardinale

Biodiversity confers economic value by enhancing carbon storage in grasslands, an economic argument for biodiversity conservation.

California perennial grasses are physiologically distinct from both Mediterranean annual and perennial grasses. Vaughn, K.J., Biel, C., Clary, J.J. et al. Plant Soil (2011) 345: 37. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-011-0757-3


Restoration manual for annual grassland systems in California. University of California ANR Publication 8575. June 2017. By Elise Gornis and Julea Shaw. 

Techniques to provide general direction to effectively improve grassland conditions in monetary and logistically feasible ways. Developed for practitioners of any experience level to inform grassland restoration, design and application. --Elise Gornish served on the CNGA Board of Directors in 2017. 

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