Plant phenology, the timing of plant biological events, affects the ecological community from microbe to megafauna. An understanding of plant phenology is essential for effective restoration and management. We collect species level phenology to explore patterns of phenology and the role it plays in a landscape where non-native species threaten the integrity of ecosystem function. Weekly from March to November we document plant phenological stages of emergent, budding, flowering, fruiting, mature seed, senescent, and fall growth for species at 30 phenology sites across the property. Preliminary results of this long term monitoring project confirm native and non-native species have disparate phenological patterns. To see the 2013 Phenology Report click here. To see Rebecca Durham's presentation on COMPARATIVE PHENOLOGY OF WESTERN RANGELAND PLANTS click here.
Humans have exerted a major influence on plant communities across MPG Ranch that began with fires set by the Native American and continued with intensive livestock grazing, farming, and herbicide applications. The overall result of these activities is that low diversity and low productivity plant communities composed mainly of non-native plants cover many areas. In many cases the existing undesired vegetation is hardy and resistant to replacement, after all it is the stuff that has survived grazing, herbicide applications, and the ranch’s harsh climate. The updates and reports in this section show the approaches we take to figure out the best ways to restore diverse and productive plant communities. The Restoration Map under the maps heading is the best way to explore our restoration work. The map interface allows researchers to explain our methods and research in a chronological and spatial context. Abstracts and links to major updates and plans will be visible on this page.
Rangeland diversification- In some cases we use herbicide applications combined with fire and drill seeding to establish new communities.
Assisted Succession- We have also developed a new approach to restoration of weedy areas using a naturally herbicide resistant initial plant to reclaim weed infestations. The plant is called sainfoin. It is a legume that enriches the soil and allows us to kill-off the weeds seed bank before we re-plant.
Plants constitute the essential core of the ecosystem. Without plants, habitat exists only as an inhospitable void. Knowing that vegetation plays such an integral part in ecosystem function, we keep a close eye on the current state and subsequent changes in vegetation. One facet of vegetation research is vegetation data collection across MPG.
A grid of 560 sampling points covers MPG, with each point separated by about 200 yards. We visit each point to gather data on plant communities. At each point we set up 4 transects, each 50 feet long. Botanists record the plant species encountered at each foot. The reports in this section discuss how we categorize plant communities and the relationships between plant communities and other kinds of organisms.
As we continue to layer data onto this sampling grid we will post new discussions of interactions between plant communities and new groups of organisms. Rebecca Durham, one of the botanists that conducted the original survey, is revisiting many of the points to document lichen and moss community composition.
Mike McTee investigates the sudden death of a four-year-old ponderosa pine
09-03-13 ECO Season Recap
10-17-13 Field Note