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Archive for the ‘Plants’ Category

Scientists investigate effects of sea level rise on coastal wetlands

Coastal Wetlands - Hammonasset

Coastal wetlands in Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, CT.

If you are heading to the beach this summer, you are likely to pass by coastal wetlands on your way to the shore. These wetlands vary from bottomland hardwoods to marshes to seagrass beds but all occur at the intersection of land and sea, where fresh water from land meets saline tidal waters.

Coastal wetlands provide an array of ecosystem services. They protect shores from flooding, erosion and storm surge; provide habitat for wildlife; filter pollutants from water and sequester carbon. A group of researchers led by Assistant Professor Beth Lawrence of the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) and UConn’s Center for Environmental Science and Engineering (CESE) is studying and quantifying the ecosystem services of carbon and nitrogen cycling to determine how these areas are responding to rising oceans.

The coast of the eastern United States is expected to experience elevated levels of sea level rise compared to the global average. Several factors, including water temperature, salinity, currents, the melting of glaciers and ice sheets and various geological and geographical elements, affect the rate of sea level rise. Scientists forecast global sea level rise in the range of 8 inches to 6.6 feet by 2100. The pace at which and amount the oceans rise will depend largely upon carbon and methane emissions that accelerate the melting of the planet’s ice and increase ocean temperatures. Heat causes water to expand, further escalating sea level rise. (more…)

CAHNR in the news

Students with mobile devicesScientific American highlighted the work of Assistant Professor Melissa McKinney with polar bears. The Department of Natural Resources and the Environment faculty member found that as sea ice disappears, the bears move to land and change their basic diet. As a result, the researchers saw a 65 percent drop in the polar bears’ mercury levels. See also Popular Science. 6-15-17 and the research publication.

UConn Today interviewed Associate Extension Professor Thomas Worthley about the current gypsy moth invasion and the effects on trees. He is part of the Department of Extension in Middlesex County.

Hartford Courant quoted Carol Quish in an article about cleaning gypsy moth caterpillar frass off driveways and decks. Quish is a program aide in plant science and landscape architecture. (more…)

Meet graduate student Jonathan Mahoney

Jonathan Mahoney

Jonathan Mahoney.

Jonathan Mahoney is a PhD student studying plant breeding in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. While completing an undergraduate internship at the USDA in Ames, Iowa, he became part of a collaboration that connected him to UConn. Here is what he said in an interview.

Where did you study as an undergraduate?

I studied at Iowa State University in the Department of Horticulture and graduated in 2014.

What was your major?

My major was horticulture with an emphasis in fruit and vegetable production.

Why did you decide to go to graduate school?

It was partly due to the people that I worked with at Iowa State, especially the faculty, and the research that I did as an undergraduate at the USDA-ARS, National Plant Germplasm System.

It was also probably my own curiosity. Learning what something is, that’s interesting, but I want to know why and how. I think graduate school allows me to do that with experiments and scientific discoveries.

Who is your advisor? (more…)

Website relays native plant info

Native plants website

Homepage of New England Native Plants Initiatives website

New England native plants have a new ally with the creation of a website dedicated to disseminating information about them.

The New England Native Plants Initiatives site highlights “the important role native plants play in our ecology,” said Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture graduate student John Campanelli. He and his advisor, Associate Professor Julia Kuzovkina, co-initiated the website while working on a related DOT native grasses project.

Campanelli adds that the site acts as a clearinghouse to “direct people to organizations and businesses related to native plants in our region,” with the goal of increasing use of the plants. The new CAHNR website has several potential audiences from amateur gardeners to government and industry professionals to conservationists.

Native plants benefit ecosystems and the environment. For example, forbs, or wildflowers, provide ideal forage (pollen and nectar) for native pollinators like bees and butterflies. With the increased use of native forbs, there is the potential to reverse the decline of pollinator populations in the region, says Campanelli. The website has a page devoted to pollinators, and it includes links to fact sheets and research articles.

Campanelli points out an additional bonus, “Native plants are better adapted to a region’s ecological parameters. They require fewer inputs, such as water and fertilizers, to thrive.” This fact and the ability of natives to provide habitats for many species of wildlife, such as birds, reptiles and amphibians, contribute to a cleaner environment and conservation efforts, according to Campanelli. (more…)

Sustainable landscape program works with practitioners to decrease inputs while meeting the needs of users

Victoria Wallace talks with participants at a school IPM workshop in Hamden.

Victoria Wallace talks with participants at a school IPM workshop in Hamden.

According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, sustainable landscapes are responsive to the environment, are re-generative and can actively contribute to the development of healthy communities. In practice, this means developing a program that incorporates the use of cultural practices that maintain and protect the environment while meeting the needs of users and adding to the value of the community.

Sustainable landscapes require the least amount of inputs (water, fertilizer, pesticides) necessary to support the managed area. Over-fertilizing is costly and contributes to excess nutrient runoff that affects water systems; changes in weather have illuminated the need for more drought-resistant turfgrass cultivars and landscape plants; and pesticides need to be used thoughtfully to protect the environment.

Victoria Wallace, extension educator in sustainable turf and landscapes, works with the College’s faculty in turf and plant science, particularly members of the integrated pest management (IPM) team, to provide educational programs in sustainable landscape management for grounds managers for municipalities and schools and professionals in the landscape industry.

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