Valerie Thurston


Presentation: 10:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Kennedy Union Ballroom



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Ecological restoration in landscapes heavily impacted by industrial agriculture is a pressing scientific concern that will require the development of techniques that facilitate the establishment of biodiverse habitats in post-agricultural fields. Ecological invasion is a significant concern in old-fields of the American Midwest and early establishment of problematic trees such as Pyrus calleryana may alter the course of secondary succession. Some evidence suggests that more biodiverse habitats may inhibit ecological invasion in some settings (i.e. the diversity-resilience hypothesis), but little is known about how prairie diversity may influence woody establishment in Midwestern old-fields. Working with our community partners at the Five Rivers Metroparks (Dayton, Ohio), we have established a fully replicated long-term restoration experiment on a 30-acre former agricultural field. The long-term management goal for this abandoned farmland is to establish a prairie community that transitions to mature oak forests. The experimental design includes four prairie seed mix treatments each replicated 5 times in 50 × 50 m plots and applied in spring of 2020: (1) high diversity with high legume content; (2) high diversity with low legume content; (3) low diversity with high legume content; (4) low diversity with low legume content. Each of the plots was then subdivided into four subplots and each of these received one of four soil amendment treatments: (i) leaf mulch; (ii) whole soil inoculation; (iii) whole soil + leaf mulch and (iv) control. Vegetation was assessed systematically using two transects to establish six 1m² quadrat within each subplot. Initial observations suggest that higher diversity seed mixes establish more diverse plant communities, and those diverse communities garner more niche space in the plant community. These results offer preliminary support for the diversity – resilience hypothesis given that a reduction in open space in the community should make it more difficult for invasive species to establish. Ongoing work seeks to discern the presence of exotic and invasive species throughout the restoration experiment and relate the abundance of invasive species to biodiversity of the established prairie community.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Ryan McEwan

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium, College of Arts and Sciences

Institutional Learning Goals

Community; Critical Evaluation of Our Times

Secondary “Success”-ion: Healing Post-Agricultural Soils Through Prairie Plantings