Soil communities are commonly the most overlooked part of an ecosystem because they are cryptic and difficult to study.
However, they are responsible for a disproportionate number of ecosystem functions, including carbon and nutrient cycling, soil fertility, soil stability and water retention.
credit: Flickr by Rebecca Pollard
how these communities change based on land management activities is a first step in understanding how ecosystem function might change.
The purpose of this project is to address the relationships among forest treatments (thinning and use of logging machinery) to impacts on soil abiotic parameters (soil compaction, bulk density, hydrology, organic matter and soil carbon and nitrogen) on important soil groups (nematodes, microarthropods, bacteria, and fungi).
Each of these groups is responsible for different functions, and can provide different information on the health of the soil, and therefore the ecosystem.
With the current task agreement, we propose to look at the effects of mechanical thinning on these parameters in two ways across four different forest types (ponderosa pine, xeric mixed conifer, mesic mixed conifer and aspen).
In both experiments, we will measure soil bulk density, soil compaction, soil hydraulic conductivity, water infiltration rate, soil organic matter and total C and N.
We will use a mix of traditional microscopy and molecular methods to quantify the abundance and diversity of bacteria, fungi, nematodes and microarthropods.