“Native Mycorrhizal Fungal Inoculation Improves Restoration of Native Grassland Diversity and Function” by Dr. James Bever
Ecological restoration efforts can increase the diversity and function of degraded areas and inhibit the establishment of non-native invasive plant species. However, current restoration practices cannot typically re-establish the full diversity and plant species composition of intact remnant plant communities. Our project focused on the role of soil microbes in improving the establishment of native plants and in ameliorating the negative effects of non-native invasive plant species in grasslands. We particularly focused on the beneficial effects of a group of soil fungi called arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi, which form symbiotic associations with most plant species. Our research demonstrated that reintroduction of native AM fungi can accelerate grassland recovery by improving establishment and growth of highly desirable native plant species, and suppressing undesirable plant species including non-native invasive plant species.
“Achieving Dryland Restoration Through the Deployment of Enhanced Biocrusts to Improve Soil Health” by Dr. Nichole Barger
Biological soil crusts, or biocrusts, are communities of microorganisms that develop on soil surfaces and are a critically important functional component of dryland systems across the globe. They are often associated with increased soil nutrient and water retention, resources that are highly limiting to plant productivity in these ecosystems. Most importantly, biocrusts stabilize soil surfaces against wind and water erosion. While resilient to wind and water erosion, biocrusts are highly susceptible to compressional forces, such as those generated from foot and vehicle traffic associated with ground-based military training activities. Due to the functional importance of biocrust communities to the ecological functioning of dryland ecosystems, there is keen interest in restoring these communities. Thus, our overarching research objective in this project was to facilitate the recovery of degraded arid and semi-arid Department of Defense (DoD) lands by restoring biocrust communities. In this project, we (1) established a biocrust nursery as an inoculum testing and supply center for biocrust restoration, (2) identified successful field application methods of biocrust inoculum in a series of field trials, and (3) evaluated soil and plant responses to biocrust restoration in multi-factorial field experiments. Our presentation detailed the successes and challenges of biocrust restoration in dryland environments.
Dr. James Bever is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas where his research focuses on understanding the influence of microbiomes on plant productivity and diversity. Plants interact continuously with beneficial and pathogenic soil organisms and these interactions can be critical to plant success. Dr. Bever’s research group has investigated the importance of this process for understanding patterns of native plant diversity, as well as approaches to restoring native plant communities following disturbance or invasion by non-native species. Dr. Bever moved to the University of Kansas in 2016 when he was appointed as a distinguished professor. Prior to this move, he was a professor at Indiana University where he also chaired the Evolution, Ecology and Behavior Faculty. He has authored or co-authored 150 scientific articles and has received Guggenheim, Fulbright and Bullard fellowships. Dr. Bever received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan, respectively, and a doctoral degree in botany from Duke University.
Dr. Nichole Barger is an associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her research focuses on sustainable land management and the restoration of a broad variety of ecosystems throughout the world. Dr. Barger is actively involved on a wide range of international science policy activities. She recently served as a coordinating lead author on the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity (IPBES) and Ecosystem Service Global Land Degradation and Restoration assessment. She is currently serving a four-year term as one of ten scientists on the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Science Policy Interface group which promotes dialog between scientists and policy-makers on desertification, land degradation and drought. Finally, she is the current science director at The Nature Conservancy Canyonlands Research Center in Utah. Dr. Barger earned a bachelor’s degree from The Evergreen State College, a master’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley and a doctoral degree in ecology from Colorado State University.