Problem: Restoration of urban and agriculture lands to landscapes that resemble the native prairies typical of pre-settlement times focuses on re-establishing above-ground ecological communities including native plants. Soil properties are important factors driving the establishment of plants and animals in restored prairies. The effectiveness of a prairie restoration can in part be evaluated by changes in soil quality. Grasslands exhibit higher soil quality attributes including soil organic carbon, microbial activity, and aggregate stability than do soils in urban and agroecosystems. These improvements in soil quality often lead to greater ecosystem services, such as water flow and retention, solute transport and retention, C sequestration, retention and cycling of nutrients, buffering and filtering of potentially toxic materials, and maintenance of biodiversity and habitat. The below-ground component of prairie restoration is an under-studied, yet critical factor in restoration success.
Goals: The goals of this research are to determine: (1) if and (2) how soil quality may impact the success of a prairie restoration.
Methods: To address these goals we are investigating linkages among soil quality, plant biomass, and biodiversity in a chronosequence of prairie restorations and remnants in the Midwest, USA. To date, we have sampled the Schulenberg prairie at The Morton Arboretum (2008, 2010, and 2013) and Chicago State's prairie restoration.
Personnel: This research is led by Dr. Bryant Scharenbroch and Marlin Bowles (The Morton Arboretum). Catie Ausland (Elmhurst Col) is a student currently working on this project. Other collaborators on this project include Dr. Karel Jacobs (Chicago State U) and Susan Kirt Alterio (UIC), Scott Howard (EIU), and Mike Jones (The Morton Arboretum).
Funding: The Morton Arboretum.
Bowles, M., Scharenroch, B.C., Sluis, W., and M. Jones. 2012. The 50-year old Schulenberg Prairie of The Morton Arboretum. The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL.
Copyright 2008-2014 - Morton Arboretum Soil Science - MASS laboratory