What does the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration mean for you?

The Decade of Ecological Restoration is nearly here! The process of helping ecosystems regain function and biodiversity is a new and complex field. It requires collaboration across academic disciplines and requires connecting the needs of humans and ecosystems. So, what can restoration ecologists learn from sociologists to bridge the gap between humans and nature and help make the coming decade a success?

Read more

From Cropland to Cities: Aerial Transport of Fungi

How connected are our farms to our cities? If you are a flying fungus, they may be very connected! In a new study, researchers from De Paul University found fungi from the soil on the rooftops of Chicago and wondered why. It turns out, small fungal spores can travel from agricultural fields through the air into the cities and form friendships with the city-dwelling plants. Understanding how these spores move from agriculture to cities could help researchers develop new insight of the urban ecosystem.

Read more

Leaving a Legacy: Plants leave “memories” in the soil that can affect future generations

It’s easy to drive by grasslands, forests, and deserts without thinking too deeply about how and why they have developed to be unique from one another. Still, most of us have an intuition of how community drivers work, such as recognizing that sandy soils and very hot climates encourage the growth of cacti instead of oaks. As an ecologist that has done a lot of work with restoration projects, I am particularly interested in thinking about all of the environmental “ingredients” that go into the recipe for each unique plant community. The day that I found out that plants can leave “memories” in soil which change communities long term, I immediately began thinking about how we could harness this knowledge for good and whether or not humans play a role in the development of these legacies.

Read more

A Matter of Mulch: Restoring Post-Fire Pine Forests in the Western United States

Following severe fires, forest soils can erode, depositing sediment into nearby waterways after it rains and threatening local water quality as a result. Mulch is often used to reduce soil erosion in forests following wildfire. Following the High Park Fire in Colorado, scientists tested several types of mulch to determine which was most effective. Thanks to this study, we now know that wood mulch is better than wheat-straw mulch at promoting the return of pine trees and excluding non-native species from taking over, while also stabilizing the soil, probably because wood mulch persists longer and holds more moisture.

Read more

Microbes for Disappearing Dunes

A major challenge our coastal ecosystems face is rapid loss of sand dunes due to coastal erosion. Plants play an important role in sand dune restoration. However, without the right microbes these plants may not be able to establish themselves in the dunes.

Read more

Listen for a Change: Bioacoustics in Restored Habitat Combats the Bird Decline

Excerpt: A recent study has revealed that 3 billion birds have disappeared since 1970 in North America. Restoring habitat can help reverse this loss, and technology in listening for birds can be a vital tool to see if this approach to restoring bird habitat is working.

Read more