Pine savanna restoration on agricultural landscapes: The path back to native savanna ecosystem services.
Restoration of savanna ecosystems within their historic range is expected to increase provision of ecosystemservices to resident human populations. However, the benefits of restoration depend on the degree to which ecosystems and their services can be restored, the rate of restoration of particular services, and tradeoffs in services between restored ecosystems and other common land uses.We use a chronosequence approach to infer multi-decadal changes in ecosystem services undermanagement aimed at restoring fire-dependent pine savannas, including the use of frequent prescribed fire, following abandonment of row-crop agriculture in the southeasternU.S.We compare ecosystemservices between restored pine savannas of different ages and reference pine savannas as well as other common land uses (row-crop agriculture, improved pasture, pine plantation, unmanaged forest).Our results suggest that restoring pine savannas results in many improvements to ecosystem services, including increases in plant species richness, perennial grass cover, tree biomass, total ecosystem carbon, soil carbon and C:N, reductions in soil bulk density and predicted erosion and sedimentation, shifts from soil fungal pathogens to fungal symbionts, and changes in soil chemistry toward reference pine savanna conditions. However, the rate of improvement varies widely among services from a few years to decades. Compared to row-crop agriculture and improved pasture, restored savannas have lower erosion, soil bulk density, and soil pathogens and a higher percentage of mycorrhizal fungi and ecosystemcarbon storage. Compared to pine plantations and unmanaged forests, restored pine savannas have lower fireprone fuel loads and higher water yield and bee pollinator abundance. Our results indicate that restoration of pine savanna using frequent fire provides a broad suite of ecosystem services that increase the landscape's overall resilience to climate change. These results are likely relevant to other savannas dominated by perennial vegetation and maintained with frequent fire.