Does pastoral land-use legacy influence topsoil carbon and nitrogen accrual rates in tallgrass prairie restorations?

Nicholas Glass, Brenda Molano-Flores, Eduardo Dias de Oliveira, Erika Meraz, Samira Umar, Christopher J. Whelan, Miquel A. Gonzalez-Meler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Restoration can recover degraded ecosystems and ecosystem services. However, effects of restoration on soil nutrient accrual are difficult to predict, partly because prior land use affects rates of soil nutrient recovery. In tallgrass prairie restorations, land-use legacy effects have not yet been quantified. We investigated topsoil carbon and nitrogen accrual within seven land-use histories: (1) row crop agriculture, (2) pasture, (3) pasture converted from row crops, (4) prairie restored from row crop, (5) prairie restored from old pasture, (6) bison prairie restored from pasture and row crops, and (7) remnant prairie. Soil samples were collected in 2008 and again in 2018 at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Will County, IL. Soil samples were analyzed for bulk density, root chemistry, macro-and micronutrients, and carbon. Restored prairies contained similar soil bulk densities and rates of topsoil carbon accrual compared to each other in 2018. However, restorations from row cropping accrued nitrogen more slowly than restorations from pastures. Additionally, pastures converted from crop fields exhibited fewer legacy effects than restorations converted from crop fields. This research illustrates land-use legacy effects on soil and nutrients during grassland restorations, with implications for potential restoration trajectories and their role in carbon sequestration and ecosystem functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number735
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Agriculture
  • Carbon
  • Ecosystem memory
  • Land-use
  • Legacy
  • Nitrogen
  • Pasture
  • Restoration
  • Soil
  • Tallgrass prairie

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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