Authors: Mehrey G Vaghti, Marcel Holyoak, Amy Williams, Theresa S Talley, Alexander K Fremier, Steven E Greco
Abstract: Societal constraints often limit full process restoration in large river systems, making local rehabilitation activities valuable for regeneration of riparian vegetation. A target of much mitigation and restoration is the federally threatened Valley elderberry longhorn beetle and its sole host plant, blue elderberry, in upper riparian floodplain environments. However, blue elderberry ecology is not well understood and restoration attempts typically have low success rates. We determined broad-scale habitat characteristics of elderberry in altered systems and examined associated plant species composition in remnant habitat. We quantified vegetation community composition in 139 remnant riparian forest patches along the Sacramento River and elderberry stem diameters along this and four adjacent rivers. The greatest proportion of plots containing elderberry was located on higher and older floodplain surfaces and in riparian woodlands dominated by black walnut. Blue elderberry saplings and shrubs with stems <5.0 cm in diameter were rare, suggesting a lack of recruitment. A complex suite of vegetation was associated with blue elderberry, including several invasive species which are potentially outcompeting seedlings for light, water, or other resources. Such lack of recruitment places increased importance on horticultural restoration for the survival of an imperiled species. These findings further indicate a need to ascertain whether intervention is necessary to maintain functional and diverse riparian woodlands, and a need to monitor vegetative species composition over time, especially in relation to flow regulation.