- Willamette Valley wetland and upland prairies are some of the most endangered ecosystems in
the United States, and provide habitat for many federally listed species. These are dynamic
systems, subject to ecological succession and invasion by aggressive non-native species, and
require active management to maintain management goals. This is true of all Willamette Valley
prairies, whether intact, degraded, or reestablished. Yet restoration and conservation efforts
often lack experimental validation. Our overall objective is to synthesize the scientific information
now available pertinent to the prairie restoration efforts of the West Eugene Wetlands
Program (WEWP) and, where there is sufficient support, develop concrete and defensible
Successful ecosystem restoration requires establishing and maintaining native plants. In turn,
plant establishment hinges on having suitable environmental conditions, using species with
adequate germination and growth rates, and reducing competitive pressure from non-native
plants (Figure 1). In year one of this project, we synthesized the wealth of plant establishment
data during wetland restoration in the West Eugene Wetlands Program. In year two, we are
building and expanding on these results in several important ways:
• We are generalizing these results through the investigation of plant traits (Table 1) that
consistently correspond to the patterns of establishment and vigor (Figure 1).
• We are systematically compiling the results from year one and year two of this project into a
public database. We are adding to this database findings from similar ecosystems, both in
the Willamette Valley and elsewhere.
• We are considering further the role of microsite variability on seedling establishment
• We are synthesizing these results into scientific conclusions.
• We are integrating these results, where there is sufficient support, into concrete and defensible
Our goal is to develop an ability to predict key aspects of prairie restoration performance, such
as establishment rates, based on species traits, site conditions, and maintenance. These predictions
can then be restated as management recommendations, such as which species to sow and
site preparation and maintenance regimes to follow to maximize native plant abundance and
minimize non-native plant abundance at a given site.
The two components of our project–plant traits and the database–are crucial to this goal.
• Without the generalization that traits allow, understanding of wetland restoration increases
slowly and expensively, one case study at a time.
• The organization of the database will increase the power and efficiency of revealing the
relationships between plant traits and plant performance. Perhaps even more important is the
role of the database as a first step in developing a Web-based expert system for managers
wishing to plan wetland restorations.