Soil Respiration Rates and Carbon Isotope Emissions under Differing Herbivory and Plant Diversity Treatments in a Restoration Prairie

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Salsbery, Miranda
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Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology seeks to teach the studies of ecology (organisms and their environment), evolutionary theory (the origin and interrelationships of organisms), and organismal biology (the structure, function, and biodiversity of organisms). In doing this, it offers several majors which are codirected with other departments, including biology, genetics, and environmental sciences.

The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology was founded in 2003 as a merger of the Department of Botany, the Department of Microbiology, and the Department of Zoology and Genetics.

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Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The Symposium provides undergraduates from all academic disciplines with an opportunity to share their research with the university community and other guests through conference-style oral presentations. The Symposium represents part of a larger effort of Iowa State University to enhance, support, and celebrate undergraduate research activity.

Though coordinated by the University Honors Program, all undergraduate students are eligible and encouraged to participate in the Symposium. Undergraduates conducting research but not yet ready to present their work are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the presentation process and students not currently involved in research are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the broad range of undergraduate research activities that are taking place at ISU.

The first Symposium was held in April 2007. The 39 students who presented research and their mentors collectively represented all of ISU's Colleges: Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business, Design, Engineering, Human Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and the Graduate College. The event has grown to regularly include more than 100 students presenting on topics that span the broad range of disciplines studied at ISU.


As we attempt to restore native habitat, particularly in the Midwestern United States, we cannot overlook the importance soil microbes play in carbon cycling. Agricultural fields provide different ecosystems for microbes and may have long term effects on restoration efforts. By measuring soil respiration rates and carbon isotope emissions, it is possible to gage variations in the sources of respired carbon. In this project we looked at these two factors under herbivory and non-herbivory condition as well as low and high plant species diversity conditions to examine how these treatments effect sources and pool size of rapidly-cycling carbon. We hypothesize that herbivory will increase soil microbial respiration due to plant over compensation, where plants respond to damage by increasing growth rates, and increased species turnover, a change in species composition and abundance due to disturbance. We also hypothesize that the highest difference in carbon isotopes (C3 versus C4) will be the high diversity regions of herbivory plots. This is because the high diversity sections have a much greater forbes to grass species ratio and herbivory, as stated above, is predicted increases turnover. Understanding long term impacts of agriculture on belowground communities may allow us to improve management of restoration prairies.

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