- Willamette Valley wetland prairies are some of the most endangered ecosystems in the United
States, and provide habitat for many federally listed species (Wilson et al. 1993, Noss et al.
1995, USFWS 2000, Schultz et al. 2003). A rigorous program of ecosystem restoration can
protect and enhance wetland plants, animals, and services (Pywell and Putwain 1996). The
restoration projects of the West Eugene Wetlands Program (WEWP) comprise one of the few
large-scale and long-term integrated restoration programs in the world.
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 (Wilson 2004). In year
two, our objectives were to expand on these results in several important ways:
• Generalize these results through the investigation of plant traits (Table 1) that consistently
correspond to the patterns of establishment and vigor (Figure 1).
• Systematically compile the results into a trait database. This database includes findings from
similar ecosystems, both in the Willamette Valley and elsewhere.
• Testing the effect of habitat variation on the relationship between traits and seedling
Our goal is to predict key aspects of prairie restoration performance, in this case establishment
rates, based on species traits and habitat. These predictions can then be applied as management
recommendations, such as which species to sow to maximize native plant abundance at a given
site, even if the species have not been field tested.
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 in developing a Web-based expert system for managers wishing to plan