last update April 15, 1998
The effectiveness of organic mulch as a simple means of enhancing the restoratin of disturbed lands by providing a competitive edge to native perennials, such as Artemisia californica (California sagebrush), over exotic annuals, such as Avena fatua (wild oat), was studied by investigating the effect of organic amendments on microbial activity and nitrogen immobilization through both soil analysis and above-ground plant growth. The addition of organic amendment resulted in an increase in microbial activity, a parallel increase in nitrogen immobilization, and no significantdifferences in total soil nitrogen. It is likely that nitrogen was gradually being removed from its more available form of nitrate and being immobilized in the tissues of the increasing microbial biomass. The survival rate of planted native perennial seedlings of A. californica in organic amended plots was almost double that of control-post seedlings, and plant volume was significantly higher. when the availability of nitrogen was reduced through increased immobilization, amended plots established an environment more conducive to native perennial shrubs, allowing them to outcompete exotic annuals for water and nutrients. This simple procedure could have major implications for enhancing the restoration of disturbed lands.