Restoration of Soil Microbial Function Following Degradation on Department of Defense Lands: Mediating Biological Invasions in a Global Change Context

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SERDP 2019 Project of the Year Award for Resource Conservation and Resiliency

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a textbook example of a plant that can overwhelm a landscape. A biennial plant from Eurasia, it has rapidly become a problematic invasive species in North America. It forms dense monocultures that enable it to invade forest interiors and threaten native plant community composition. Garlic mustard reduces native plant diversity through competition for resources and through the chemical suppression of beneficial fungal symbioses.

Dr. Kristina Stinson from the University of Massachusetts and her team led a SERDP funded project that examined the interactive effects of biological invasion and abiotic global change factors on the functional diversity of soil fungi of Northeastern forest habitats. The focus was on management implications for forests disrupted by the invasive plant species garlic mustard. The team visited and sought permission to work at over fifteen candidate sites for this study and ultimately identified eight study sites in locations with active garlic mustard invasions. These sites were strategically distributed across a climatic nitrogen deposition gradient in New England and provided a unique opportunity to observe landscape-level variation in the soil ecological responses to invasion and eradication.

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The project resulted in significant and important findings. This is the first study to document impacts of garlic mustard on soil microbes with such high molecular resolution and at a broad landscape scale. The research team determined that climatic warming has the potential to promote garlic mustard invasion and negatively impact tree seedling performance.

For this significant work, Dr. Stinson and her team received the 2019 SERDP Project-of-the-Year Award for Resource Conservation and Resiliency for their project titled, “ Restoration of Soil Microbial Function Following Degradation on Department of Defense Lands: Mediating Biological Invasions in a Global Change Context.”

Project Team:

  • Dr. Kristina Stinson - University of Massachusetts
  • Dr. Serita Frey - University of New Hampshire

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