Mine revegetation efforts in the Southwest are frequently challenged by the rapid encroachment of early successional plant species such as desert broom (Baccharis sarothroides). These species, although native, can impede the establishment of more desirable plant species. The effects of desert broom on the surrounding above- and belowground communities will be quantified to determine the benefits or hazards of desert broom in ecosystem regeneration during mine waste reclamation. Specifically, abiotic sensors are installed to measure soil moisture, soil temperature, and humidity underneath desert broom canopies and outside of the canopy. Additional other factors to be monitored both inside and outside the plant canopy include seedling density and identification, soil chemistry and microbial community composition. Soil biotic and abiotic properties will be compared to undisturbed native soils from surrounding ecosystems. Using these data, the effects of desert broom on the abiotic and biotic components of the local environment can be assessed and used to inform future management and reclamation efforts on hard rock mines.
Number of students trained through this project: 1 (graduate student)