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Plant community responses to mastication and mulching of one-seed juniper (Juniperus monosperma)

Plant community responses to mastication and mulching of one-seed juniper (Juniperus monosperma)

Mechanical cutting and mastication of juniper trees aims to restore grassland habitat by reducing the density of encroaching woody species. However, the associated soil disturbance may also create conduits for invasive species, a risk that must be mitigated by land managers. We characterized herbaceous communities in treated and adjacent untreated areas in a piñon-juniper (Pinus edulis and Juniper monosperma) woodland in northern Arizona 2.5 years after treatment. Untreated plots had 4× the herbaceous cover (82%) than treated plots (21%). Within treated plots, native species cover (19%) was 10× higher than invasive species cover (2%). Furthermore, treated plots exhibited greater plant community variability and diversity than untreated plots, driven by an increase in the diversity of native grasses and non-native forbs. No new recruits were Arizona listed noxious weeds, indicating that, at least in the short term, mastication is not producing invasive species hot spots in this piñon-juniper woodland.

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