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Defense Department Supports New Ecosystem Research

Tuesday, December 11, 2012
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The US Department of Defense (DoD) has granted $2 million to Harvard Forest researchers Kristina Stinson (UMass Amherst) and Serita Frey (UNH) for a five-year study of how soil microbial communities respond to major ecosystem change.

Soil fungi are crucial to the growth of many native trees, but their functions can be easily disrupted by the belowground toxins produced by garlic mustard (Allaria petiolata), a widespread invasive plant. The study's two main experiments will investigate how soil fungi repopulate an ecosystem after a garlic mustard invasion is eradicated.

One set of experiments will take place on DoD lands in Massachusetts and New York, the other will take place on existing soil warming and nitrogen addition plots at the Harvard Forest, which incorporate additional environmental stressors to mimic future global change. Stinson and Frey’s results will advance fundamental knowledge about soil fungi in forest ecosystems, and will improve resource managers’ ability to restore ecosystems in a time of rapid environmental change.

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