Understanding variables of habitat restoration make for better outcomes.
Key variables effecting the success of habitat restoration projects include controlling the spread of disease and invasive plant species in areas replanted with native vegetation. An understanding of soil science and ecosystem dynamics is essential to establishing and maintaining the health of plant populations.
Though her career Principal Botanist Erin McDermott is advancing restoration through knowledge and experience to increase the success of native revegetation projects. Her journey in restoration ecology began by examining the role that soil fungi play in increasing plant disease resistance. For her Master’s thesis at U.C. Davis, she researched the effects of mycorrhizal inoculation on grassland and native valley oak revegetation in disturbed soils. Mycorrhizae are symbiotic relationships between fungi and plants; the fungi colonize the root system of a host plant, aiding in nutrient and water absorption while the plant, in return, provides the fungus with carbohydrates formed by photosynthesis. Plants with this relationship are found to be more resistant to diseases.
By understanding the nuances of soil types and the microorganisms that live within them appropriate decisions about site preparation, species to include in planting pallets, and well timed maintenance and monitoring can be made to increase the chances of restoration success.
Integrated Pest Management
When non-native plant species are introduced to a region, they can spread rapidly and out-compete native plant species due to a lack of natural predators. Nomad Botanist and Restoration Ecologist Jaclyn Inkster studied the effects of introducing insects as a biological control to invasive plants. For her Master’s thesis research at East Carolina State University, she aimed to understand how the Threatened and Endemic Pitcher’s Thistle was affected by the introduction of the seed head weevil in the Great Lakes region, and possible methods for mitigating these negative effects. Through this research Ms. Inkster can help provide insights on how sensitive plant species in the San Francisco Bay Area may be affected by non-native insets and recommend science-based solutions.