Ylva Lekberg and Dan Mummey describe ongoing experiments to determine how plant invasions affect the tiniest components of the natural world.
After our last update on MPG’s collaboration with the Earth Microbiome Project, we scoured the ranch for sites and established 20 plots dominated by either invasive or native plants. We categorized these 20 plots by density of the three main invaders of interest; knapweed, cheatgrass, and leafy spurge. We installed fifty data loggers that continually monitor soil temperatures. Invasion mediated shifts in temperature could alter many biological and chemical processes. Soil moisture, possibly the strongest determinant of productivity in this system, will be measured continuously with probes installed in each gradient. The monthly measurements of soil respiration will show how plant invasions alter microbial activity. In early June we will collect soil samples for the analyses of microbial communities, available nutrients, and enzyme activities. MPG Botanists will survey the sites three times during the season. Naturalists will measure total plant productivity at the end of the growing season.
Dan checks on the moisture probes along the knapweed gradient.
The aim of this project is to measure how plant invasions alter ecosystem processes and change soil microbial communities. This knowledge will help us develop restoration practices that create diverse native communities.
Ylva installs temperature probes in the experimental garden