MSU Forestry students present at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum

posted on April 7, 2017 2:42pm

Ellie Dromer presents on
Ellie Dromer presents on "Prescribed fire effects on carbon pools and flux from a forest mosaic landscape."


MSU Forestry undergraduate students Ellie Domer, Clarissa Winters, Hunter Stanke and Tina Guo presented at the 2017 University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF). Find out more information about their research projects below:

Prescribed fire effects on carbon pools and flux from a forest mosaic landscape

Ellie Domer

Mentors: Jessica Miesel (Forestry), Kathleen Quigley (Forestry)

Prescribed fires are a common land management tool for restoring globally imperiled pine barrens ecosystems, but the ecological impacts of fire are not well-understood. Evaluating fire effects on carbon (C) is of particular importance, because high concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) contribute to global climate change. Fire can be a climate forcing mechanism, releasing C as CO2 during combustion, but can also create a C sink via the formation of a stable C pool known as pyrogenic C (PyC). A study in the Moquah Barrens of northern Wisconsin has allowed a unique opportunity to measure fire effects on ecosystem C in contrasting vegetation types at landscape scale. A total of 56 plots were established within two burn blocks spanning 400-1200 hectares to investigate three burn factors: historic vegetation cover, current vegetation cover, and fuel manipulations. We collected pre- and post-fire measurements of vegetation, fire temperature and fuel consumption, as well as vegetation and soil samples. Preliminary results indicate that prescribed burns resulted in the greatest loss of forest floor C in cut brush vegetation, whereas deciduous woodland

lost the least. Mineral soil exhibited C loss in the upper fraction (0-5 cm) but the lower fraction (5-10 cm) remained largely unaffected. By combining these results with data on fuel and vegetation C, I will create a C flux model describing the effects of prescribed burns on C stocks from contrasting vegetation cover. These data are vital to understanding how we can best use prescribed fire to sequester C in soils. 

Small mammal community diversity as a variable in retention forestry in the pacific northwest

Clarissa Winters

Mentor: Gary Roloff (Fisheries and Wildlife)

The homogeneity of vegetation structure within intensively managed forests tends to support a reduced biodiversity compared to unmanaged forests. This simplified forest landscape lacks diversity in tree species, density, age, and size classes. Retention forestry, however, provides a management opportunity to promote landscape heterogeneity, especially when retention patches are inherently diverse, thereby providing a suite of different species, stem densities, age classes, and mast opportunities. This heterogeneity in forest composition, therefore, is likely to promote use by multiple wildlife species, and potentially result in higher population densities. I investigated the effects of retention forestry practices following timber harvest in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States on small mammal communities. I compared small mammal diversity and abundance to retention patch vegetation characteristics, testing the hypothesis that more structurally and compositionally complex patches retain a more diverse small mammal community.

The influence of landscape composition and connectivity on occurrence of cwd in michigan white-tailed deer

Hunter Stanke

Mentors: Sonja Christensen (Fisheries and Wildlife), Jonathan Cook (Fisheries and Wildlife), David Williams (Fisheries and Wildlife)

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that infects North American cervid species. The spatial distribution of disease at the landscape level is associated with movement and space use patterns of white-tailed deer. We evaluated the composition and connectivity of distinct landscape classes where CWD positive deer have been harvested in Michigan using least cost path analyses and spatial land cover data. We examined percent forest, low-level urban development, and agriculture, as well as road density at each location. We found that the occurrence of CWD is positively correlated with percent low-level urban development and negatively correlated with percent agricultural cover. These findings suggest that deer within the southcentral lower peninsula of Michigan may be more likely to occupy habitats associated with low-level urban development than areas dominated by agriculture. This space use pattern may be explained by relatively high edge density and low hunting pressure present in low-level urban development, and the limited cover availability associated with agricultural fields. Additionally, we present results on the impact that habitat connectivity has on the spread of CWD on the landscape. This study provides the first evidence of the association between CWD and specific habitat types in Michigan, and will aid in the targeting of management efforts to control the disease.

Seedling ecotype and drought in neotropical tree species cordia alliodora in ecuador

Tina Guo

Mentor: David MacFarlane (Forestry)

Laurel (Cordia alliodora), is a widespread native Neotropical tree species, growing from Mexico to Argentina. It is adapted to both wet and dry forest regions, and is a valuable species for timber production and in agroforest systems. Laurel’s extensive geographic range has resulted in many ecotypes, or distinct genetic populations, occurring due to environmental factors and isolation. Predicted changes in Neotropical climate are increasing temperature and decreasing precipitation, indicating likelihood of future droughts. I hypothesized there would be differences in effects of drought on tree seedling ecotypes from wet and dry regions of Ecuador. I used two provenances, drier Coastal region and wetter Amazonian region, subjecting them to three watering treatments, 0 ml, 50 ml, and 150 ml per day. Responses for tree seedlings were indicated by growth, mortality, damage/form, and disease/pests. Seeds from ecotypes were collected and germinated several months apart. Preliminary analysis of the Amazonian ecotype showed the 0 ml water treatment killed all seedlings within the first month; all other seedlings survived. No significant differences were found between 50 ml and 150 ml in diameter growth, but there was some indication the 150 ml treatment decreased height growth (possibly waterlogging). Data are not yet available for the Coastal ecotype, which was started later. Results suggest a redesign of the experiment is needed, to address methods of seed collection and storage; starting germination for both seed provenances at same time; adjusting daily water amount to reflect rainfall from origin regions (data suggest a maximum of 50 ml/ day).