Enhancing restoration outcomes: Seedballs
Seed balls are structures typically made of clay, compost, water and seed. These structures can ameliorate conditions that contribute to failure in arid land restoration, including dry conditions that exacerbate seed desiccation stress and create soil crusts that limit seedling establishment, as well as seed loss via predation. Seed balls also serve to enhance seed to soil contact and reduce seed redistribution by wind. In theory, seeds are protected in the structure until adequate rainfall removes the surrounding clay and a small pocket of nutrients from the compost component of the seed ball nourishes the seedlings as they emerge. Despite their utility (seed balls are cheap and easy to make and can enhance germination of seeded species), there is almost no formal research into understanding fundamental factors that drive seedball success. We run a series of experiments testing seedball design and outcomes. This work is being conducted at the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge in collaboration with USFW, at the Elkhorn Ranch in collaboration with the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance, at Tucson High School and at Flying mule Farms, funded by a Western SARE Research and Education Grant. The lab regularly organizes seedball making workshops around the state of AZ.
Outputs associated with this work:
We have been working with two high school students from Tucson High on a series of seedball experiments. They recently made a short (under 2 minute) movie about one of our experiments.
It's one of the best things ever!