Restorenet: an emerging restoration network reveals controls on seeding success across dryland ecosystems.
Drylands are Earth's largest terrestrial biome and support one-third of the global population. However, they are also highly vulnerable to land degradation. Despite widespread demand for dryland restoration and rehabilitation, little information is available to help land managers effectively re-establish native perennial vegetation across drylands. RestoreNet is an emerging dryland restoration network that systematically tests revegetation techniques across environmental gradients. Using the RestoreNet experimental framework, we tested the effectiveness of restoration treatments (i.e. ConMod nurse plant structures, mulch, pits) that increase soil moisture and seed mixes with different climatic niches to achieve revegetation goals. Across sites, seedling recruitment was consistently influenced by treatment and seed mix type. Pit and mulch treatments increased total seedling density, with pits promoting the highest seeded species recruitment while limiting non-native species establishment. Seeding increased total seedling density regardless of seed mix type, but cooler-adapted seed mixes promoted greater seeded species density and resulted in lower density of unseeded (non-native) species relative to warmer-adapted mixes. Seedling recruitment was also controlled by the temporal and environmental context of restoration with the positive effect of high precipitation greatest in the weeks immediately following seeding. Above-average precipitation during the study period across most of the sites may partially explain why the highest seeded species recruitment occurred in pit treatments and seed mixes with cooler, wetter niche requirements. Synthesis and applications. Results from the dryland restoration network, RestoreNet help to better understand variation in seeding and restoration treatment success across space and time in drylands. Relationships between restoration practices and environmental conditions in our study suggest the importance of anticipatory restoration strategies that forecast seasonal and sub-seasonal weather conditions and select plant species with climate niche requirements appropriate for current and future climate conditions. This information is critical to land managers tasked with improving ecosystem conditions across degraded dryland regions.