Radio Interview about a Technique to Restore Native Plant Species in Drylands

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Mike Duniway and Becky Mann were interviewed by KZMU, a community radio station located in Moab, UT. They discussed a strategy that uses 6" tall structures to provide safe places for native plant seed germination and seedling survival, and should benefit restoration efforts in water-limited systems.

Mike and Becky discussed their dryland restoration project that uses small structures to influence the local environment to facilitate native plant seedling establishment. The small structures are called connectivity modifiers (ConMods) and they are small screens that protect seeds and provide them with safe spaces to germinate. The interview also touched on the topics of land use, climate change, and the challenges of restoring native plant species in the Southwest. Additionally, Mike and Becky discussed what it is like to be scientists and expressed their desire to share the ConMod technology and have others improve upon it.

Here is the link to the interview:

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A healthy native sand dropseed grass inside a connectivity modifier consisting of small mesh screens that trap seeds
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Historic over-grazing of arid grasslands in the Intermountain West has led to widespread soil erosion, loss of plant diversity, and invasion by exotic species.  Degraded grassland conditions can be very persistent, even after livestock use has ceased. For example, in national parks on the Colorado Plateau, livestock have been excluded for decades, but soil and native plants have not recovered on their own in many instances.  Recent droughts and forecasts for more frequent and severe droughts in makes natural recovery of these important ecosystems even less likely.  Unfortunately, many traditional methods of restoration have only marginal success rates and risk increasing soil erosion.

Our project investigates a novel restoration method that uses connectivity modifiers (ConMods).  These are small fencing structures that “modify” large connected patches bare ground by impeding wind and water erosion, creating microsites favorable to seedling establishment.  In a recent field trial, ConMods resulted in a 90% establishment rate of seeded native plants.  We are currently looking at various installation patterns of ConMods, to inform and optimize restoration of degraded arid grasslands.

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Small screens installed perpendicular to the soil surface and native plant seeds being raked into soil
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