Researcher to Discuss Invasive Dune Plants at Sleeping Bear Dunes

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Date: July 5, 2016

Invasion by exotic plants is an increasing problem worldwide that causes severe environmental and economic impacts. Sand dune ecosystems throughout the Great Lakes are currently experiencing invasion by multiple plant species, including baby’s breath (Gypsophila paniculata) and blue lyme grass (Leymus arenarius). The dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore) have not escaped these scourges, but researchers are actively documenting their impacts and the effectiveness of management efforts.

Matthew Reid (University of Louisville) will present a program entitled “Ecological Impacts of Baby's Breath Invasion and Management in Sand Dunes” on July 14  at 9:30 a.m. at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center Auditorium in Empire, Michigan. 

To date, much research has focused on the aboveground consequences of exotic plant invasions, with relatively less attention given to soil communities. Mr. Reid will detail a study on the impacts of invasion by Leymus on soil nematode and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) communities in a survey of dunes along the Lake Michigan coastline in Michigan. He found no differences between Leymus and the native dune grass Ammophila in terms of AMF root colonization, but nematode community composition showed differences, with more bacteria-feeding nematodes associated with Leymus. 

In a separate study, his research team examined the effects of both invasion and management of Gypsophila on plant communities and soil nematode communities in the National Lakeshore and surrounding properties. The plant community showed a strong response to both invasion and management. Cover by Gypsophila remains high in invaded plots where management (i.e., removal) has been minimal. In plots where plants were actively removed, cover by Gypsophila was reduced to approximately 5%. There was no effect of removal of baby’s breath on plant diversity. However, Gypsophila invasion and management affected the soil nematode communities differently. Data indicate that invasion by exotic plants can alter plant and soil communities, but management may be effective at mitigating the full impacts of invasion.

Matthew Reid is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Louisville. He received his M.S. in Biology from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and his B.A. in Biology from Hendrix College (Arkansas). His research efforts have been focused mainly in the field of plant ecology. His current work focuses on plant-soil interactions in sand dunes, particularly with regards to invasive plant species and soil nematodes. He is interested in understanding the belowground consequences of plant invasion, and how these changes belowground in turn affect aboveground plant community dynamics.

This talk is part of a Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore speaker series called “Research Rendezvous.” To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NPS and highlight the value of national parks as our nation’s “living laboratories,” the National Lakeshore is hosting a series of public talks by park researchers in 2016. All Research Rendezvous presentations offered at the National Lakeshore are free. Upcoming “Research Rendezvous” presentations include:

“Volunteers for Science: A Panel Discussion with Citizen Scientists at Sleeping Bear Dunes” by park volunteers Marty Litherland, Carol Linteau, Mary Ellen Newport, John Ester, Char Ester, Kevin Kinnan, Kim Kinnan, and Bill Stott on Thursday, August 11 at 10:00 a.m.

“Otter Creek Brook Trout Restoration” by Brett Fessel (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians) on Thursday, September 8 at 9:30 a.m.

"Evaluating and Preserving Dark Skies at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore" by Kevin Skerl (Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Last updated: July 6, 2016

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