SERDP & ESTCP Webinar Series

SERDP and ESTCP have launched a webinar series to promote the transfer of innovative, cost-effective and sustainable solutions developed through projects funded in five program areas. The webinar series targets Department of Defense and Department of Energy practitioners, the regulatory community and environmental researchers with the goal of providing cutting edge and practical information that is easily accessible at no cost.

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Webinar #108 (03/26/2020)

Long-Term Ecological Studies: Evaluating Responses to Ecosystem Restoration and Optimizing Recovery of Plant Communities

Dr. Natalie Griffiths, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Dr. John Orrock, University of Wisconsin

March 26, 2020

12:00 PM ET (9:00 AM PT)

Presentation Slides

Abstract

“Evaluating Long-Term Ecological Responses to Instream Restoration” by Dr. Natalie Griffiths

Restoration is commonly used to improve the ecological condition of impacted ecosystems. However, very few restorations are monitored for long periods of time despite significant resources that are often expended to implement these restorations. This project evaluated the long-term efficacy of coarse woody debris additions as an instream restoration technique at Fort Benning Military Installation in Georgia. This long-term assessment was critical to assess whether this restoration technique improved ecosystem health and was a worthwhile investment. At Fort Benning, military activities on sandy upland soils negatively impact stream ecosystems. In 2003, coarse woody debris was added to four streams with the goal of reducing these impacts. The short-term effects of coarse woody debris additions to water quality, biogeochemical cycling, and macroinvertebrates were evaluated for three years post-restoration. We revisited the same streams to evaluate the long-term (i.e., 14-15 years post-restoration) effects of coarse woody debris additions. Assessing the long-term efficacy of restoration on multiple instream metrics will inform the Department of Defense (DoD) on the utility of coarse woody debris additions as a restoration technique and whether these restorations are worthwhile investments at DoD installations. 

“Using Long-Term Data to Optimize Recovery of Understory Plant Communities in Longleaf Pine Ecosystems” by Dr. John Orrock

This project supports SERDP’s efforts to maintain DoD execution of mission-related activities by providing effective, science-based guidance for promoting the recovery of understory plant communities. Our work combined intensive long-term monitoring of plant populations with field-based experiments deployed over three separate installations. We tracked 25 plant species by conducting long-term sampling at 192 plots from 18 sites at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, 12 sites at Fort Stewart in Georgia, and 18 sites at Savannah River Site in South Carolina. We evaluated whether (1) management activities (e.g., seed additions, prescribed fire, tree thinning) could be used to maximize plant population and community recovery, (2) plant populations persisted as self-sustaining populations for many years after recovery was initiated, and (3) management activities could maximize the likelihood that populations would spread once established, resulting in self-propagating recovery efforts. Our long-term data provides a powerful means to evaluate how seasonal climatic variation affect plant populations. The presentation will describe the management activities that maximize the establishment, persistence, and spread of plants in longleaf pine ecosystems, and will highlight how seasonal climatic variation may play a critical, yet unappreciated, role in guiding recovery of plant communities on DoD lands.

Speaker Biographies

Griffiths

Dr. Natalie Griffiths is a research staff member and team lead in the aquatic ecology group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Natalie is an ecosystem ecologist and biogeochemist whose research focuses on understanding how human activities affect water quality and elemental cycling in freshwater ecosystems. Her research takes her to field sites across the United States – from studying the response of peatland water quality to climate change in Minnesota, to examining the effects of trees grown for bioenergy on water quality in South Carolina, to evaluating a novel water quality measurement platform in agricultural streams in Iowa. Since 2017, she has been the principal investigator of a SERDP project focused on evaluating the long-term efficacy of ecological restorations installed in small streams at Fort Benning Military Installation in Georgia. Natalie received her bachelor’s degree in zoology and physiology from the University of Toronto, and her doctoral degree in biological sciences from the University of Notre Dame.

Orrock

Dr. John Orrock is a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work focuses on understanding factors that limit the restoration and conservation of plant and animal populations, including the study of predator-prey interactions, plant-herbivore interactions, and disease ecology. John has over 20 years of experience on Department of Energy (DOE), DoD, U.S. Forest Service, and National Park Service lands, working with collaborators from federal, state, and nonprofit organizations to develop best practices for managing plants and wildlife. John has worked with SERDP since 2008 to provide science-based methods to promote biodiversity in longleaf pine ecosystems that are found on many of the DoD installations in the southeastern U.S. He earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a doctoral degree from Iowa State University.

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