We are beginning to understand that interactions between landscape elements underlie many of the important issues we face as a human society. I am fascinated by the ecological processes that tie landscapes together.
Quantifying Ecosystem Services
Landscapes provide us with a number of valuable goods and services. Accurate information about ecosystem services is critical for making informed decisions about land use. I just finished an NRCS funded project that developed a practical tool to help folks evaluate the current and potential shade provided by vegetation along stream reaches in the Willamette valley. While this may sound a bit arcane, stream temperature is a critical component of habitat for many aquatic species such as salmon. Unfortunately, the water temperature in many of our streams has increased partly because of declines in the shade provided by streamside vegetation. This tool allows anyone to get an idea about the current shade condition of their stream, as well as its potential for restoration. The project was collaboration with Michael Guzy of Biological and Ecological Engineering, the Center for Sustainable Plant Research and Outreach (SPROut), and the Institute for Natural Resources. You can find more information about the project and a link to the web tool itself here.
One important ecosystem service is the protection that arthropod natural enemies provide our crops. We currently don't have a very good understanding of how natural enemies move around in landscapes or how changes to landscapes influence the services they provide. Two of my graduate students on working on projects that are asking these questions. Michael Russell and I are collaborating with Gwendolyn Ellen and Paul Jepson of the OSU Integrated Plant Protection Center on a USDA Western SARE funded project to test the effectiveness and improve the design of beneficial beetle habitat on farms. The work uses participatory on-farm research in collaboration with several regional farmers. Tammy Winfield and I are also collaborating with Gwendolyn Ellen , Paul Jepson and Len Coop on a project funded by the USDA Pest Management Alternatives Program to develop and implement conservation biological control by parasitoids of leafroller pests in caneberries. We are evaluating existing resources for leafroller parasitoids on cooperator farms using on-farm floral resource surveys and laboratory assessments of parasitoid preferences for different floral resources.
I have had several students work on projects evaluating appropriate designs for and quantifying the potential benefits from green roofs in the Pacific Northwest. Green roofs are a promising technology that uses vegetative surfaces on roofs to moderate storm water pulses, moderate heat flux, and potentially provide habitat for beneficial arthropods. Check out this video featuring Erin Schroll, one of my former graduate students.
Invasions of non-native species are profoundly changing the world's ecosystems. Predicting invasive spread and impact requires understanding processes that take place at the intersection of wild, urban, and agricultural landscapes. I have studied the spread of pampas grass (Cortaderia) in Mediterranean-type shrublands and the spread of Atlantic cordgrass (Spartina) in Pacific estuaries. The Spartina work was part of a large Biocomplexity project at UC Davis. Extending this work, I am currently investigating how wetland ecosystems recover following the eradication of invasive Spartina in Willapa Bay, WA. Spartina is an example a species that strongly modifies its physical surroundings…i.e. an ecosystem engineers. This is a bad thing in the context of an invasion, but ecosystem engineers can also be important producers of ecosystem services and effective tools for achieving restoration goals.
Mike Russell (PhD student)
Mike is interested in understanding native plant communities as well as the role biodiversity plays on our farm landscapes. He is currently working on understanding the ecology of beneficial beetles on farms.
Tammy Winfield (MS student)
Tammy is interested in insects, spatial ecology, and GIS analysis. She is currently working on understanding the ecology of beneficial parasitoids in caneberry fields.
Andy Gorby (undergraduate student)
Andy is conducting his senior research project investigating how substrate composition influences plant performance on green roofs.