Research

Past logging operations and real estate development harmed this forest ecosystem. MPG scientists and collaborators conduct research projects to learn about the consequences of these human-caused disturbances and the potential for restoration activities to improve wildlife habitat and restore ecosystem function. We also explore research questions related to wildlife populations, invasive species management and nutrient cycling. For more information on our research at MPG North, please contact us.

 

 
 

Latest Research

Revegetation efforts at MPG North began in 2005. Monitoring data for 2007-2009 comprised two shrub species (Douglas’s hawthorn and chokecherry). We expanded monitoring procedures in 2011 include all planted species. In 2011 and 2012, crews measured about 25% of planted shrubs, conifers, and deciduous trees to estimate the progress of revegetation efforts over the entire property. 

Asymptomatic fungal endophytes colonize tissues of woody plants worldwide, with largely unknown ecological effects. Using culture-based methods and ITS1-5.8S-ITS2 rDNA sequence analysis, we investigated differences between foliar endophyte communities in disease-resistant hybrid and wild-type Pinus monticola (Western white pine) trees with observed variation in tree growth, vigor, and browsing damage by white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).

I traveled to the University of Idaho January 18-20, 2010 to learn micromorphologi- cal analysis of fungal isolates from Dr. George Newcombe1. We examined a few of our isolates and found that 223 is probably an undescribed species of Preussia.

The genetic data we have for each isolate is useful for identification, but many se- quences return ambiguous results. Micromorphological analysis will help us con- firm our genetic data and characterize suspected new species of interest. Our natural history reports will also benefit from microscope analysis. In future research, this skill will allow us to confirm the presence of fungi inoculated in plant tissue without DNA extraction, amplification, and sequencing.

We hope to submit an endophyte community diversity manuscript this year. Characterizing and publishing accounts of undescribed fungal species will also be possible, but we should focus on species relevant to White Pine conservation. Other directions for future research include fungal community stability over time and resistance to pathogen invasion. 

 

Baseline data from all bird observations at MPG North includes detections of 87 species in 31 families since 2007. Point count data from 2010 and 2011 documented 35 species in 16 families that either nest and breed at MPG North or appear there year-round. Ruby-crowned Kinglets were the most frequently detected species in point counts, followed by Red-winged Blackbirds, Swainson’s Thrushes and Dark-eyed Juncos (unlimited detection radius from survey points). Species richness and abundance increased from north to south across the property and reached maximum values near the southwest pothole and other wetland areas. The relatively depauperate northwest lodgepole forest may benefit from restoration treatments designed to increase tree age class and species diversity. Shrub and tree restoration elsewhere on the property should also increase nesting habitat for most bird species. Since migratory bird populations depend on winter habitat, migratory habitat and weather conditions beyond our control, several years of data will be needed to reveal population trends that reflect habitat improvements due to restoration activities.

White pine monitoring activities in 2011 provided data on the performance of rust resistant seedlings and mature natural regeneration at MPG North. Both seedlings and mature tree groups continue to grow every year, but average growth lags behind expectations of this species in optimal habitat (northern Idaho and coast ranges). Management activities contributed positive and negative pressures on growth, with the overall outcome of increased survival in the naturally regenerated population. 

We planted 1325 trees and shrubs at MPG North over the week of September 14th. This map shows all planting locations. Each plant received at least one gallon of water before exclosure installation. The planting crew applied 2.5 gallons of wood chip mulch over plant roots in dry areas (shown in orange) to improve water retention and decrease grass competition. Mulch applications to island plantings depended on experimental treatment.

Our August 2011 invasive weed survey began with the need for baseline data and it being a 'banner year' for growth- thus a good time to collect data. QUsetions we aim to answer with the survey include; What is the current distribution and abundance of three widespread asteraceous species (Canada thistle - CIAR, spotted knapweed - CEMA, oxeye daisy - LEVU) on MPG North? Is weed distribution similar among the target species? What other weeds exist on the property, and where are they? Are weeds invading relatively undisturbed areas? 

On January 24th and 25th, Lorinda and I visited the University of Idaho to talk about endophyte research and take a look at the MPG North genotype white pine seedlings they’ve grown for us at the seedling nursery. In late 2009, we delivered 201 seeds from nine white pines to the nursery. 108 seedlings from eight MPG parent trees survived. Survivorship varied among seed lots (0 to 80%) for a 54% overall germination rate. 

To study the relationship between fertilizer and deer browsing of white pines, we planted 140 blister rust resistant seedlings in 7 plots on MPG North in early June, 2009 (map, inset). A September 9, 2009 survey reported that >90% of the seedlings survived their first summer, but only 13 seedlings (about 10%) survived until our last survey in early June, 2010. This high mortality was unexpected. We think that the unusual cold snap last October killed these seedlings. 

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