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Amending Soil with Mulched European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) Does Not Reduce Reinvasion


We conducted a three-year field experiment to determine if amending soils with mulched European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) can limit reinvasion, and whether two methods of incorporation—tilling or surface application—produce similar results. Mulch (a high carbon:nitrogen [C:N] material) may reduce reinvasion by stimulating soil microbial immobilization of N. Converting the woody waste generated during buckthorn removal into mulch would also eliminate both the need to remove this waste from restoration sites and the expense of acquiring amendments from elsewhere. We found that adding buckthorn mulch to soils, whether tilled or not, did not decrease either buckthorn reinvasion or soil N availability. The mechanical disturbance of tilling, however, caused a large, prolonged reduction in reinvasion by killing a previously unrecognized but major contributor to reinvasion—small buckthorn individuals (most < 5 cm tall) that were undetected during initial removal. Recruitment of new individuals occurred during the experiment, but recruitment rate decreased rapidly over time, suggesting that buckthorn seeds are short-lived. Three major recommendations emerge: (1) buckthorn mulch should not be used to limit reinvasion; (2) tilling can greatly reduce reinvasion by killing buckthorn individuals that are undetected during initial removal; and (3) because buckthorn seeds appear to be short-lived, reinvasion can be reduced by repeated, annual follow-up control of undetected and newly recruited individuals.