Nontarget effects of pre-emergent herbicides and a bioherbicide on soil resources, processes, and communities

Restoration Ecology
By: , and 



Community-type conversions, such as replacement of perennials by exotic annual grasses in semiarid desert communities, are occurring due to plant invasions that often create positive plant–soil feedbacks, which favor invaders and make restoration of native perennials difficult. Exotic annual grass control measures, such as pre-emergent herbicides, can also alter soil ecosystems directly or indirectly (i.e. via the plant community), yet there are few studies on the topic in natural, non-cropped landscapes. We asked how spray treatments applied to soil post-fire with the intention of inhibiting invasive annual grasses (such as Bromus tectorum L.) and releasing existing native perennial grasses affected soil resources, a microbial process, and invertebrates in three climatically varied sagebrush steppe sites. Spray treatments included chemical herbicides (imazapic and rimsulfuron) that strongly affected plant communities and a bioherbicide (Pseudomonas fluorescens strain D7) that did not. Chemical herbicides increased soil mineral nitrogen in proportion to their negative effects on plant cover for 2 years after treatments in all sites and increased soil water and net N mineralization (measured at one site) but did not affect total carbon, nitrogen, or organic matter. Invertebrate responses to herbicides varied by site, and invertebrates increased with chemical herbicides at the highest, wettest site. We show that herbicide treatments can exacerbate pulses of mineral nutrients, which previous studies have shown can weaken ecosystem resistance to invasion. Thus, restoration strategies that increase the likelihood that desired plants can capture mineralized nutrients after herbicide application will likely be more successful.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Nontarget effects of pre-emergent herbicides and a bioherbicide on soil resources, processes, and communities
Series title Restoration Ecology
DOI 10.1111/rec.14140
Edition Online First
Year Published 2024
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
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