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Environmental Conservation

Global climate change and nitrogen deposition are processes that will only increase as industrialization continues. The purpose of this study is to understand the response of the microbially driven soil nitrogen cycle to the combined effects of temperature increase and nitrogen amendments in forest soils of New England. Terrestrial cycling of nutrients is of particular importance due to the effects nutrient cycling can have on plant growth and climate change.

Rural landscapes around the world face intense development pressures from nearby urban areas. In the United States, rampant, low-density development at the urban fringe consumed approximately 800,000 ha of land in the last decade (USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service 2004). New subdivision developments and new towns are blanketing the landscape, often with little or inadequate provision for green infrastructure. This is certainly the case in New England, one of the nation's most densely populated regions. For example, every day 16 ha.

There is widespread interest in greening municipalities and increasing urban tree canopy cover, largely through local community-based tree planting initiatives. It is generally estimated that newly-installed  trees require at least 3 or more years before establishment, when they resume pre-transplant growth rates. Most trees installed in the urban environment are dug from the nursery field with a spade, and wrapped in burlap and a metal basket ('balled and burlap' or 'B&B').

Urbanization has increased demand for water and impaired aquatic ecosystems, threatening water resources worldwide. Climate change and more frequent droughts are expected to exacerbate this situation. Residential landscaping, especially lawns, are a major factor in increasing domestic water use.

Outreach efforts have been made to promote outdoor residential water conservation and promote methods that provide ecosystem benefits. These include water harvesting using rain barrels, infiltrating storm water using rain gardens, and landscaping with native plants.

With increased pressure to utilize more practical, ecological and economically feasible strategies in the management of turfgrasses, additional research is needed to identify best management practices aimed at preservation of water resources.

Improving water management is of increasing importance in horticultural operations. A growing global population and changes in water availability will mean that less water will be available for ornamental plant production. There are also a growing number of federal and state regulations regarding water use and runoff from production areas. Better irrigation and fertilization management practices will help to limit the environmental impact of container plant production by limiting the runoff of water and nutrients from nurseries.

Sponsoring Unit: Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station

The goal of this research is to gain better insight into the decision making process of Massachusetts forest-owning families in regards to the future of their land so that educators may tailor outreach programs and material to help these families make informed decisions about it. The results will be shared with policy makers interested in supporting family decisions about the future of their land.

Reaching the potential for renewable biofuels depends on the development of new technologies that are able to release the energy stored in cellulose fibers. This research project centers around an unusual microbe, Clostridium phytofermentans, that can convert a broad range of biomass sources directly to ethanol without expensive thermochemical pretreatment. Further development of conversion processes using C. phytofermentans will create a path to renewable biofuels using our region's sustainable forestry and crop resources.

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