Project Proposals

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  1. Team 3 on June 7, 2017 at 11:43 am

    A Comparison of Soil Respiration in Freshwater Tidal Wetlands at Different Successional Stages and at Different Depths.

    Kelsie Crossman, Amanda Mazza, Ibad Rehman, & Brittney Whittington

    Introduction: The wetland ecosystem is a vital ecosystem which provides habitats for a wide variety of biota and can affect the carbon cycle on a global scale (Mitra et al. 2005). Agricultural field and riparian wetlands alone are estimated to sequester between 0.16-0.22 kg C m-2 yr-1(Kayranli et al. 2010; McCarty and Ritchie 2002). This annual sequestration of CO2 underlines the importance of wetlands and wetland restoration such as that of Kimages Creek. To fully understand how wetlands can be carbon sinks requires understanding Net Ecosystem Production (NEP), which is Gross Primary Production(GPP) minus Respiration (Autotrophic and Heterotrophic), of the system (Chapin et al. 2006). In wetlands the soil is an important part of this equation on the side of Microbial respiration that is using plant nutrients to grow and decompose dead plants in the wetland system which both feed into the system’s respiration (Chapin et al. 2006).

    Project Significance: This study is important since percent organic matter is higher in natural wetlands (Bruland and Richardson 2006), which is also believed to be related to soil respiration. Little research has been conducted on the differences in soil respiration between restored and natural freshwater tidal wetlands, so it is a factor that should be addressed when estimating respirations of wetlands with high levels of disturbance versus little disturbance. The goal of this project is to establish a preliminary understanding of soil respiration in differently established freshwater tidal wetlands at different depths.

    Background: The Rice Rivers Center is the location that this study plans to take place in with two freshwater tidal wetlands that are located on either side of the Center (History 2017). The land surrounding the Center has had varying land-uses throughout history. Although modern european settlements were in the area most of the time, it was used for agricultural purposes (Egghart. 2009). The two different sites this study plans to work on is Harris Creek and Kimages Creek which are two freshwater tidal wetlands that have had very different life-histories due to the human disturbances in them (Egghart. 2009). Although both creeks were disturbed by agriculture, Harris Creek, which is located upstream from the Rice Center, was most likely used as farmland until the mid-1800s and Kimages Creek was most likely forested until the mid-1800s when both areas then became grazing land for livestock (Egghart 2009). By the 1900s Harris Creek was allowed to revert back to a forested area which persisted to modern day (Egghart. 2009). The area that is considered the Kimages Creek Wetland was clearcut at least two times during it’s recent history, then used as a hunting ground, then dammed to create Lake Charles that was later used as part of a youth camp, and then into a conservation area now owned by VCU who began restoration on Kimages Creek wetland in 2005 (Egghart. 2009). This area offers a unique comparison between its wetlands because of their differences in disturbance. That is why it is the focus of this study.

    Hypotheses: During this study both the Harris Wetland and the Kimages Wetland will be studied for their soil respiration rates with the expected outcomes: A significantly higher respiration rate will be observed in the soils of the Harris Creek than in Kimages Creek due to more organic matter being present in the less disturbed and more developed soils of Harris Creek. Also, it is expected that a significant difference of respiration will exist between the different depths.

    Methods: There will be four soil cores each taken, making a total of 8 soil cores, from an established wetland on Harris Creek and a restored wetland on Kimages Creek at VCU’s Rice Rivers Center in Virginia on the 6th of June 2017. These cores will be taken 200 meters from the mouth of each creek where they open to the James River at a location where water level is at top soil level in both wetlands. Within each soil core, slices of soil will be taken from the top going down at 0-2 cm, 14-16 cm, and 29-31 cm, making a total of 24 slices of soil core samples. These slices will then be placed into Ziplock quart size bags and the air will be removed from the bags when sealed. Then the bags will be placed on ice in a cooler and taken back to the lab for analysis. The analysis of these samples will be done using a LiCOR 6400 respiration sensor. The slices of soil will be placed into labeled mason jars which have 473.176 mL(one pint) of internal air volume. These jars will be purged of any O2 introduced into the system by flushing with Nitrogen for 5 minutes at which point the jars will be sealed and placed in a temperature controlled area while each sample is run through the LiCOR 6400. When each sample is put through the LiCOR 6400 they will be fitted with the lid that will connect to the LiCOR 6400 flushed one more time with Nitrogen for one minute. Then each sample will be analyzed in the LiCOR 6400 to determine respiration rate. Each analysis will be documented and then statistically analyzed by R by using an ANOVA.

    24 pint mason jars (1 pint =473.176mL) (To hold the Soil samples during Analysis and to use as cuvette chamber compatible with LiCOR.)
    LiCOR 6400 (To measure Soil respiration in each sample)
    Nitrogen Tank (To flush the samples so that O2 is removed)
    Regulator for Nitrogen tank (To control the Nitrogen flow rate)
    Balance(To measure the weight of each sample)
    Cooler with Ice (To keep the samples chilled during transportation)
    GPS (To document the exact locations of each soil core)
    Machete (To slice the different layers of soil from the core)
    Quart-Sized Ziploc Bags (To hold the slices soil samples during transportation)
    Tape for Mason Jars (To identify each sample)
    Ruler (To measure the Depth of the soil)

    1. Bruland GL, Richardson CJ. 2006. Comparison of soil organic matter in created, restored and paired natural wetlands in North Carolina. Wetlands Ecology and Management. Vol. 14: 245-251.
    2. Chapin FS, Woodwell GM, Randerson JT, Rastetter EB, Lovett GM, Baldocchi DD, Clark DA, Harmon ME, Schimel DS, Valentini R, Wirth C, Aber JD, Cole JJ, Goulden ML. 2006. Reconciling Carbon-cycle Concepts, Terminology, and Methods. Vol. 9(7): 1041-1050.
    3. Egghart C. 2009. The Walter and Inger Rice Center for Environmental Life Sciences Through Time.
    4. Kayranli B, Scholz M, Mustafa A. 2010. Carbon Storage and Fluxes within Freshwater Wetlands: a Critical Review. Wetlands. Vol. 30: 111.
    5.McCarty GW and Ritchie JC. 2002. Impact of soil movement on carbon sequestration in agricultural ecosystems. Environmental Pollution. Vol. 116(3): 423-430.
    6. Mitra S, Wassmann R, Vlek PLG. 2005. An appraisal of global wetland area and its organic carbon stock. Current Science. Vol. 88(1): 25-35.
    7. History. 2017, June 5. VCU Rice River Center. Virginia Commonwealth University.

  2. Group 1 on June 7, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Specific Leaf Area of Acer rubrum (Red Maple) in Restored and Undisturbed Tidal Freshwater Wetlands
    Caroline M. Baucom, Trent Johnson, Charlotte Noble, Zachary Snyder
    Eco-Techniques Summer 2017
    Introduction, Justification, and Questions
    Human disturbances in an ecosystem can cause prolonged and significant effects that often dramatically change the community species. Restoration focuses on identifying appropriate targets for restoring the ecosystem before disruption (Jackson et al. 2009). As the human population continues to further realize the importance of conservation and restoration, it is important for the scientific community to delve deeper into the long term effects at the species level and how growth of a species in a restored ecosystem compares to one in an undisturbed ecosystem. Ecological restoration is often measured in terms of species composition and relative abundance, however it should also be focused on the ecological functions provided by the individuals in that ecosystem. Plant functional traits may help achieve this goal because they directly affect ecosystem processing and production (Rosenfield, & Müller. 2017). Capacity for growth, resource sequestration, and resource use efficiency are closely related to foliar traits and provide interconnections among plant fitness, evolution and ecosystem functioning (Chen et al. 2011). Specific Leaf Area (SLA) is frequently used in growth analysis because it is often positively related to potential relative growth rate (RGR) across species (Pérez-Harguindeguy et al. 2013). Kimages Creek was dammed in the 1920s to create lake Charles, a section of the dam was removed in 2010. The restoration of the creek and surrounding wetland would have bring changes to the vegetation, growth potential for some species, and a significant substrate difference. This localized disturbance provides a unique opportunity to study the effects of major disturbances on Acer rubrum within the same ecosystem. Do species in disturbed/restored areas show more variability in SLA? Does restoration allow species to return to “pre disturbed” conditions?
    Objectives and Hypotheses
    The objective of this research project is to analyze the amount of variability of Acer rubrum between ecosystems by measuring average specific leaf area (SLA). We believe that A. rubrum in disturbed/restored ecosystems will have a higher degree of variability than those found in an unrestored ecosystem. The high degree of variability could be attributed from small changes in microclimates (R Rheinhardt. 2007).
    Five Acer rubrum individuals will be randomly selected from the wetland areas around both Kimages Creek (restored) and Harris Creek (unrestored) on the VCU Rice River Center grounds. Tree locations will be marked with GPS. Six leaves will be selected from each tree using a manual tree pruner, randomly selected from each section of the canopy, bagged, and taken to the lab. Leaves will be scanned with LI-3100C and weighed, then placed in the oven and dried overnight. Leaves will then be reweighed and the specific leaf area (SLA) will be calculated from measurements. An average SLA for each tree sample will be calculated and used for analysis. Analysis will be conducted with an ANOVA test.
    1.Chen, FS., Niklas, K.J. & Zeng, DH. “Important foliar traits depend on species-grouping”
    Plant Soil (2011) 340: 337. doi:10.1007/s11104-010-0606-9
    2.Jackson, S. T., and R. J. Hobbs. “Ecological Restoration in the Light of Ecological History.” Science 325.5940 (2009): 567-69.
    3.Rosenfield, & Müller. (2017). Predicting restored communities based on reference ecosystems using a trait-based approach. Forest Ecology and Management, 391, 176-183.

    4.Pérez-Harguindeguy N., Díaz S., Garnier E., Lavorel S., Poorter H., Jaureguiberry P., Bret-Harte M. S., Cornwell W. K., Craine J. M., Gurvich D. E., Urcelay C., Veneklaas E. J., Reich P. B., Poorter L., Wright I. J., Ray P., Enrico L., Pausas J. G., de Vos A. C., Buchmann N., Funes G., Quétier F., Hodgson J. G., Thompson K., Morgan H. D., ter Steege H., van der Heijden M. G. A., Sack L., Blonder B., Poschlod P., Vaieretti M. V., Conti G., Staver A. C., Aquino S., Cornelissen J. H. C. (2013) New handbook for standardised measurement of plant functional traits worldwide. Australian Journal of Botany, 61, 167-234.
    5. Rheinhardt, Richard D. “Hydrogeomorphic and Compositional Variation Among Red Maple (Acer rubrum) Wetlands in Southeastern Massachusetts.” Northeastern Naturalist 14.4 (2007): 589-604.

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