Restoration Ecology

Restoration ecology research in the lab focuses on understanding how the use of different approaches influence restoration outcomes. Work in my lab is primarily focused on addressing priority questions related to the restoration and management of diverse native plant communities in the Chicago region.

This includes addressing questions like:

Why are restoration efforts involving conservative species like native violets rarely successful? Much of this work focuses on seed ecology of multiple native violet species. Conducted with Kay Havens, MS student Sam Kilgore, postdoc Marcello De Vitis, and collaborator Linda MacKechnie at Ball Horticultural.

Is there a need to seed following the removal of invasive woody species? We are looking at the soil seed bank in upland woodland habitats (with MS student Nathan Lamb) as well as vernal pools (with MS student Matt Evans) to understand whether passive restoration following buckthorn removal is likely to lead to desired plant communities.

What approaches are being used to manage aggressive species like Solidago altissima in the Chicago Region? By taking an experimental approach and synthesizing data from across the region, can we identify which approaches are most likely to lead to desired outcomes? This work is just beginning in 2020, and is being conducted in partnership with the Forest Preserves of Cook County, and will be the first project undertaken as part of a newly-launched Synthesis Center in Conservation and Restoration (SCORE), based at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Negaunee Institute for Plant Conservation Science and Action (with Jacob Zeldin and MS student Alexis Balog).

Lab members and I have also worked on addressing restoration challenges in the western United States, including:

Colorado Plateau Restoration Outcomes Database (CPROD): To investigate how native plant materials used in a restoration perform over the short- and long-term, we assembled the Colorado Plateau Restoration Outcomes Database (CPROD), which assimilated seeding and monitoring data from multiple sources for habitat restoration projects occurring on the Colorado Plateau from 1994-2015. We included restoration projects that included a revegetation component occurring post-wildfire and/or post-disturbance, as well as after wildlife habitat improvement projects, prescribed burns, invasive plant treatments, soil stabilization projects, and transplanting projects were also included.

Our primary online data sources were the Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative (WRI) database for restoration activities occurring in Utah, and the USGS’s Land Treatment Digital Library database (LTDL), which contains information on restorations carried out by the Bureau of Land Management. In addition, we also obtained data through direct communication with the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management. Project centroids, size, ecological site description, date of treatment/s, and the specific treatment/s associated with the project were entered into the CPROD database along with information about the commercial source, cultivar type, and price of each species seeded or planted for each of the revegetation treatments associated with the project, as available. We also recorded all available pre-treatment and post-treatment monitoring data associated with each project with the goal of determining which revegetated species and seed sources were considered “successful” (i.e. they showed up in post-treatment monitoring).

Components of this dataset are being used in different research projects, including investigating the role functional traits play in species establishment following seeding (Balazs, K. R., A. T. Kramer, S. M. Munson, N. Talkington, S. Still, and B. J. Butterfield. 2019. The right trait in the right place at the right time: Matching traits to environment improves restoration outcomes. Ecological Applications) and have been shared with the Global Arid Zone Project. Please contact Andrea Kramer if you are interested in using the dataset.