Assessment of topsoil salvage and seed augmentation in the restoration of coastal sage scrub on Santa Catalina Island, California.
The Catalina Island Conservancy manages over 22,000 acres of coastal (California) sage scrub (CSS) habitat off the coast of Southern California, including much of the infrastructure, roads, and recreation associated with habitat disturbance. Restoration trials were initiated to establish best management practices for roadside and disturbed site revegetation under local site conditions. Site treatments compared excavated native subsoil and surface soil (±20 cm) reapplication practices with and without seed augmentation. Evaluation of native and nonnative germinants indicated that salvaged surface soil alone may not be sufficient to restore native cover. Seeding improved native cover and reduced establishment of nonnative species on unirrigated sites. Evaluation of water potential of seedlings indicated that high-frequency irrigation may favor establishment of nonnative annual grasses. Most compelling for land managers is the indication that CSS habitats may contain a significant nonnative seed bank in spite of the composition of aboveground vegetation, such that disturbance may facilitate habitat-type conversion without seed augmentation or weed control.