Trees both respond to and alter soils. For example, pine trees not only grow best in acid soils, they also can increase soil acidity through their leaf and root inputs. Furthermore, anticipating how ecosystems will respond to human-caused environmental changes requires insight into feedbacks among plants, microbes, and soil processes. We study how plants impact the physical, chemical, and biological properties of the soils they grow on and use this information to (1) predict ecosystem-specific responses to environmental changes and (2) manage the urban soil environment for healthy, long-lived trees.
We would not expect a palm tree to grow in Chicago, or an upland oak tree to grow in a swamp. Urban environments, especially below ground, can be just as foreign to any tree and must be managed to provide the basic requirements needed for good root growth.
Midwestern forests are a “hot spot” for nitrogen deposition - a pervasive, and perhaps irreparable, anthropogenic global change phenomena. Could this be driving declines in oak regeneration across Chicagoland?
Controlled burning is a common restoration technique in midwestern forests. This project examines its effects on soils, which are largely unknown, but can have significant impacts on tree growth and young tree establishment.
The number of species that can tolerate poor-quality of roadside soils is limited. Can we increase the diversity of trees that can thrive in this harsh environment and increase the ecosystem services they provide by matching soil amendments with tree traits?
Vacant lots make up a large proportion of urban land and are of interest to many stakeholder groups. Fast, inexpensive restoration techniques could be implemented in vacant lots and would be well suited to increasing green space. This project investigates the effects of several restoration techniques on the ecosystem services provided by soils in vacant urban lots.