Emergence and establishment of native and non-native species in soils of remnant and converted highland grasslands - southern Brazil.
Native grasslands in the Campos de Cima da Serra, Brazil, are being converted at speed for exotic tree plantations and cropland. The impact of modified and novel soil conditions on the establishment of native grassland species is unknown; establishment of non-native species, deliberately or accidentally introduced, could be favoured. In a common garden composed of fully randomized replicate samples of soils collected from remnant grassland, former cropland and pine plantations, we tested emergence and establishment of five cold-season species: Native low-tussock grass Piptochaetium montevidense (Spreng.) Parodi; native legume Trifolium riograndense Burkart; naturalized low-tussock grass Vulpia bromoides (L.) Gray; low-tussock grass Holcus lanatus L., cultivated and naturalized in Brazil; and a cultivar of non-native Trifolium repens. Other than expected, soil type and species*soil type interactions had no significant effect on seedling emergence after 132 days in the field. Species effect on seedling emergence, however, was highly significant. Vulpia bromoides emergence was significantly highest in all soil types. Holcus lanatus and Trifolium riograndense both achieved second highest emergence rates and did not differ significantly from each other. Lowest overall emergence rates were found in the non-native clover cultivar. Lab germination tests failed for Piptochaetium, although it showed reasonable emergence in the field. Good performance of the native clover is encouraging for future grassland restoration, but the value of highly germinable Vulpia as a forage remains to be tested. Holcus tolerates a wide range of soil conditions and its life history traits may promote naturalization, or even invasiveness. Native grasslands of the region should be monitored for this species. Studies like these, but set up on a larger geographical scale and with a wider array of native species, will be essential in developing ecological restoration methods for southern Brazilian grasslands.