Monday, September 28, 2015

Biocrust research with MPG Ranch(near Missoula, MT) is underway in the field and greenhouse! 

One might not think of biocrusts as critically important to ecosystem function in the intermountain west, but they are abundant, diverse and provide the same ecosystem functions we think about in more typical deserts. These functions include soil retention and stability, soil fertility and water capture.

Mosses and lichens are common under the canopies of shrubs and in plant interspaces.

In conjunction with MPG Ranch Researcher, Rebecca Durham, we have begun an extensive field survey to inventory the biocrust species present, as well as look for associations. We are interested to know how the biocrust community composition and abundance varies with aspect, elevation, soil types, and plant community. We are particularly interested to look for biocrust indicators found with native, invaded or otherwise disturbed plant communities. This information will help us set goals for restoration, and target species to use in restoration efforts.

Matt Bowker and Rebeccas Durham collecting biocrust data.
We recently completed the set up of two new new experiments using 5 moss and 3 lichen species collected from MPG Ranch.  The goals of these experiments are to:
1. Determine if we can grow these species, and if so, what conditions work best?
2. Look at competition/facilitation relationships among the lichens Diploschistes muscorum and Cladonia sp., and among the 5 moss species.
3. Determine which of these species might be best alone or in communities to use in field restoration experiments.

280 Experimental units are have been treated with various biocrust species alone or in mixes, and are being subjected to different watering regimes.

We're excited to note that our greenhouse biocrusts are already growing. We'll have results to share for filed and greenhouse work in the coming months.

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