Evaluation of topsoil inversion in U.K. habitat creation and restoration schemes

Glen, Emma; Price, Elizabeth A.C.; Caporn, Simon J.M.; Carroll, Jacky A.; Jones, Laurence M. ORCID:; Scott, Richard. 2017 Evaluation of topsoil inversion in U.K. habitat creation and restoration schemes. Restoration Ecology, 25 (1). 72-81.

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Habitat creation and restoration schemes on former agricultural soils can be constrained by high residual soil fertility, a weedy seed bank, and a lack of suitable species in the seed rain. Topsoil inversion has been trialled across the United Kingdom as a novel technique to address these constraints. We investigated 15 topsoil inversion sites ranging in age (time since inversion) from 6 months to 5 years. We assessed surface soil fertility compared to adjacent noninverted soil, and vegetation composition with respect to the species introduced at each site. Soil organic matter, total and extractable N and P were lower in topsoil inversion surface soils, demonstrating that topsoil inversion can successfully reduce surface soil fertility prior to habitat creation and restoration. This reduction was maintained over the timescale of this study (5 years). Cornfield annual nurse crops provided instant visual appeal and gave way to grassland species over time. Sown species varied widely in their establishment success, and sowings were more successful than plug plantings. Grasses colonized naturally following sowing forb-only seed mixes, allowing introduced forbs to establish early on with reduced competition from the seed bank. Plant communities did not yet resemble seminatural communities, but all were in the early stages of community development. Results indicate that topsoil inversion can successfully lower surface soil fertility and reduce competition between sown species and agricultural weeds.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Emmett
ISSN: 1061-2971
Additional Keywords: deep ploughing, nurse crop, species-rich grassland, seed addition, soil fertility, soil phosphorus
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 03 Mar 2017 13:00 +0 (UTC)

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