Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Fire Moss Research Expands to Valles Caldera National Preserve

Last week, with another semester in the books we embarked on our first trip of what looks to be a busy field season. Thanks to additional funding and logistical support provided by Dr. Robert Parmenter at Valles Caldera National Preserve we plan to put Fire Mosses to the test in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico. This fall we will be attempting the first ever inoculation of greenhouse grown Fire Moss onto recently burned soils. To increase our chances of success and meet the preservation objectives of Valles Caldera, we will be growing locally collected moss in our greenhouse here at Northern Arizona University.

Mosses for growing in the Greenhouse
This new project is also a collaboration with Kara Gibson, a fellow graduate student here at NAU who is studying the impacts of thinning and burning forest restoration treatments on soil microbes within the Caldera. To explore the effects of and differences between greenhouse grown moss and field collected moss we will test the effectiveness of both treatments at, stabilizing soils, increasing infiltration, restoring soil microbial communities, restoring nutrient cycling, and facilitating vascular plant recovery in these degraded ecosystems.

We have also expanded a survey of Fire Moss natural colonization and soil stabilization on recent wildfires in northern Arizona to northern New Mexico. This survey will allow us to inform land managers about a missing piece in post fire recovery as well as direct current and future Fire Moss research and Burned Area Emergency Response implementation.
Carpets of Ceratodon purpureus (left) along with a new yet to be identified species. 

Although for this first trip the weather was not interested in cooperating, between the three different snow storms, we had a wonderful time exploring future field sites and sampling within the Las Conchas and Thompson Ridge wildfires. The Jemez Mountains, with their high elevation and vast Valle grasslands, feel like something you would find in Wyoming or Montana instead of the Southwestern US. The opportunity to explore Fire Mosses' potential in such a different climatic and edaphic landscape makes this a perfect addition to our research. Looking forward to many more trips up to such a special part of the world over the next two years!

A big thanks to Dustin Kebble and Kara Gibson for all of their help measuring and collecting moss!









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