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Soil, plants and the biocrust between: innovations in Mojave Desert restoration and management

Bailey, Lydia Noel (2022) Soil, plants and the biocrust between: innovations in Mojave Desert restoration and management. Doctoral thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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The Mojave Desert is home to a diverse community of organisms with varying strategies to thrive in harsh abiotic conditions but are threatened by anthropogenic disturbances. This includes biological soil crusts (biocrusts) that inhabit the soil surface in arid landscapes, providing vital ecosystem services. Restoration of biocrusts to degraded ecosystems is both a goal in and of itself and a possible tool to boost ecosystem function and habitat quality, improving overall restoration outcomes. This research focuses on answering practical questions to inform restoration practitioners on best practices to assist recovery of biocrusts, while also investigating the if biocrust can be used to support desirable changes in the vascular plant community. As restoration often uses multiple techniques simultaneously, land managers need to know how biocrust restoration actions integrate with other commonly used methods before deploying biocrust broadscale. To address this knowledge gap, we tested for potential conflicts with invasive plant management as well as potential positive interactions with vascular plant focused restoration practice. In a greenhouse experiment, we found that herbicides from the synthetic auxin family can likely be used alongside biocrust additions while commonly used herbicides such as glyphosate may damage biocrust organisms. In a factorial, blocked field experiment in gypsum soils of the Mojave Desert we found that active restoration of biocrust and vascular plants is both needed and effective for enhancing these communities in a three-year timeframe. However, combining biocrust inoculation and direct seeding of vascular plants did not increase the success of either treatment. We further tested for beneficial interactions between biocrust and the endangered Arctomecon californica. We found no evidence for a relationship between A. californica and biocrusts or other organisms but did make advances in methods for salvage, direct seeding, and ex situ cultivation of this rare plant. Research on A. californica has been stymied by the inaccessibility of much of the previous work, which has remained unpublished and, in some cases, undigitized. We provide a detailed summary of all available information about A. californica to ensure that no knowledge is lost and ensure both researchers and land managers can make informed decisions regarding conservation of this species.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: Biocrust; Conservation; Gypsum; Mojave Desert; Restoration; Soil ecology; Arctomecon californica
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences > School of Forestry
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2022 16:57
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2022 16:57
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5844

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