Hitching a ride: Seed accrual rates on different types of vehicles


Lisa J. Rew, Tyler J. Brummer, Fredric W. Pollnac, Christian D. Larson, Kimberley T. Taylor, Mark L. Taper, Joseph D. Fleming, Harold E. Balbach


Journal of Environmental Management


Human activities, from resource extraction to recreation, are increasing global connectivity, especially to less-disturbed and previously inaccessible places. Such activities necessitate road networks and vehicles. Vehicles can transport reproductive plant propagules long distances, thereby increasing the risk of invasive plant species transport and dispersal. Subsequent invasions by less desirable species have significant implications for the future of threatened species and habitats. The goal of this study was to understand vehicle seed accrual by different vehicle types and under different driving conditions, and to evaluate different mitigation strategies. Using studies and experiments at four sites in the western USA we addressed three questions: How many seeds and species accumulate and are transported on vehicles? Does this differ with vehicle type, driving surface, surface conditions, and season? What is our ability to mitigate seed dispersal risk by cleaning vehicles? Our results demonstrated that vehicles accrue plant propagules, and driving surface, surface conditions, and season affect the rate of accrual: on- and off-trail summer seed accrual on all-terrain vehicles was 13 and 3508 seeds km-1, respectively, and was higher in the fall than in the summer. Early season seed accrual on 4-wheel drive vehicles averaged 7 and 36 seeds km-1 on paved and unpaved roads respectively, under dry conditions. Furthermore, seed accrual on unpaved roads differed by vehicle type, with tracked vehicles accruing more than small and large 4-wheel drives; and small 4-wheel drives more than large. Rates were dramatically increased under wet surface conditions. Vehicles indiscriminately accrue a wide diversity of seeds (different life histories, forms and seed lengths); total richness, richness of annuals, biennials, forbs and shrubs, and seed length didn't differ among vehicle types, or additional seed bank samples. Our evaluation of portable vehicle wash units showed that approximately 80% of soil and seed was removed from dirty vehicles. This suggests that interception programs to reduce vehicular seed transportation risk are feasible and should be developed for areas of high conservation value, or where the spread of invasive species is of special concern.



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