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Environmental Conservation

Invasive plants are species introduced from another region (non-native) that have established self-sustaining populations and are spreading, often with substantial negative consequences (Lockwood et al., 2007). Invasive species are a prominent component of global change (Vitousek et al., 1997, 1996), and have been identified as one of five major threats to ecosystems by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (along with, for example, climate change; MA, 2003).

Many bee pollinators are in decline, and exposure to diseases has been implicated as one of the potential causes Novel work in my lab found that consuming sunflower pollen dramatically reduced bumble bee infection by a gut pathogen. These are exciting results, but at this point we have established this effect only in the lab, with a single sunflower variety, one bumble bee species, and one pathogen species.

Results from the proposed new NE multistate project will help us to develop an understanding of how vernal pool ecosystems differ across the region in distribution, hydrology, periods of inundation (hydroperiod), redox chemistry, and carbon storage, flux, and accounting. In addition, we will continue our region-wide focus on hydric soils and hydric indicators to determine if there is a need for additional hydric soil indicators for vernal pool ecosystems.

Researchers will evaluate the potential use of field indicators of hydric soils to characterize wetland hydroperiods with respect to frequency, depth, and duration of water table fluctuations; test the effectiveness of proposed hydric soil indicators to identify 'problem hydric soils'; test monitoring protocols used to identify reducing conditions to determine if they are effective within a range of soil conditions within the Northeast; and investigate the hydraulic properties of hydromorphic soils with episaturation.

Managing conflict between people and black bears is a significant challenge confronting wildlife professionals. In addition, the frequency of conflict is expected to rise as black bear and human populations grow. The challenge is heightened by the species’ large geographic range, acceptance of human disturbance, and propensity to exploit anthropogenic food sources such as garbage cans, bird feeders, apiaries, fruit orchards, and agricultural fields.

Forest resiliency is not just an ecological challenge. To increase forest resiliency, we must inform the decisions of those that own and control the forests. Family forest owners (FFOs) control 263 million acres (or 35%) of U.S. forests. In the eastern U.S, FFOs own 43% of the forest and in Massachusetts they control more than 70% of the forests (Butler, 2008).

We are testing how plant viral infection impacts the effect of cover crops on soil carbon, greenhouse gas emissions, and soilnutrient status. We expect that the virus impact will vary with cover crop species and soil type. Our results are expected toinform how virus infections of cover crops may impact soil health. To quantify changes in soil carbon, greenhouse gas emissions, and nutrient status of soils subjected to virus infected covercrops, we are using a combination of field trials and pot experiments as well as basic and advanced soil characterizationtechniques.

Stormwater BMPs have emerged as essential tools in the mitigating impacts on hydrologic functions resulting from urbanization and its associated impervious surfaces. Yet the effectiveness of the BMPs has been understudied in relationship to effective impervious area and land development patterns linking neighborhood and watershed scales. In addition, there is a need to understand the effectiveness of BMPs under various precipitation patterns, particularly extreme storm events based on the IPCC climate change scenarios.

The dendritic nature of freshwater streams presents unique conservation concerns. Linear streams are prone to fragmentation that can reduce or completely prevent animal migration. Understanding the evolutionary consequences of habitat fragmentation is critical for predicting population response and ultimately the likelihood of population persistence. The goal of this project is to gain further understanding of the genetic and evolutionary consequences of stream fragmentation.

Approximately 60% of the total land area in Massachusetts is forested. Most of this land is privately owned, and often overcrowded with low-value species. In the absence of a market for these trees, the cost of thinning exceeds the value of the timber produced, resulting in minimal to no forest management. Value-added products present a recognized way of marketing these trees while both defraying the costs of thinning and maintaining the economic viability of private forestland.

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