Legacy effects of non-native Cytisus scoparius in glacial outwash soils: potential impacts to forest soil productivity in western Washington.
Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius (L.) Link) is a highly competitive, nonnative, leguminous shrub species of major concern in coast Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco var. menziesii) forests of the Pacific Northwest that has potential to impact long-term soil productivity. We conducted a bioassay to assess the potential for legacy effects on soils (e.g., soil nutrient effects, soil seedbank, etc.) following Scotch broom removal and the potential for recovery over time. The bioassay was conducted using glacial-outwash soils from an existing Long-Term Soil Productivity study near Matlock, WA, USA, where Scotch broom had been removed or kept out for 0 (broom present), 4, 10, or 14 years. Soils from each broom removal duration were combined with fertilizer treatments to assess mechanisms of response of three native plant species: yarrow (Achillea millefolium L.), Roemer's fescue (Festuca idahoensis Elmer ssp. Roemeri), and coast Douglas-fir. There was evidence for negative soil legacy effects on Douglas-fir growth and biomass, which decreased with time since broom removal. Responses to the fertilizer treatments indicated the effect was not associated with reduced nutrient availability. In contrast, both yarrow and Roemer's fescue had significantly greater biomass in soil from where broom was recently present, which decreased with time since broom removal. Responses to the fertilizer treatments indicated that this positive legacy effect is associated with nutrient availability, likely increased N. Soils from 0 and 4 years since broom removal were estimated as having the potential to produce over 578,500 Scotch broom germinants ha-1. Our results demonstrate the potential for both negative and positive soil legacy effects of broom depending on the responding plant species. Combined effects of negative soil legacies and a large and viable seed bank from Scotch broom create growing conditions likely to hinder long-term productivity of Douglas-fir.