Graduation Year

2016

Graduation Month

May

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

School or Department

Forestry and Conservation, College of

Major

Wildland Restoration

Faculty Mentor

Alexis Gibson

Faculty Mentor Department

Forestry and Conservation, College of

Keywords

Montana, plant growth, soil moisture, soil properties, plant mortality, Terra-sorb

Subject Categories

Plant Biology

Abstract

MPG Ranch is a conservation-oriented organization in Montana’s Bitterroot valley. Since 2010, MPG has annually planted between 5,000 and 10,000 shrubs and trees with the goal of restoring native plant communities, beautifying the landscape, and providing habitat and forage for wildlife. Plant survival has been lowest on degraded south facing slopes, likely due to a combination of erosion and high solar radiation, which have left the soil with low nutrient content, soil moisture, and high soil temperatures. To resolve these issues, we partnered with MPG to test whether soil amendments can be used to increase plant establishment on degraded hillslopes. Soil amendments included a polyacrylamide hydrogel (Terra-sorb), compost, and Terra-sorb and compost combined. These amendments were tested on three different native shrub species: Cercocarpus ledifolius (curl leaf mountain mahogany), Juniperus scopulorum (Rocky Mountain juniper), and Purshia tridentata (antelope bitterbrush). We assessed the impact of these three soil amendments on plant growth, plant health/mortality rates, and soil chemical and physical properties. Overall results revealed few consistent patterns. Compost as a treatment resulted in the lowest levels of plant mortality whereas plants in the control plots suffered the highest. Plant growth was more dependent on the species in question rather than the amendment used. Mountain mahogany was the most successful in terms of growth both above and below ground with all living plants growing 0 – 1% throughout the course of the season. Our recommendation to MPG is that they continue to monitor these plants for multiple growing seasons in order to determine if they are more or less effective in the long run than what our experiment showed for short-term results.

Honors College Research Project

Yes

Included in

Plant Biology Commons

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© Copyright 2016 Allison R. Klocke and David A. Stein