Published: April 1, 2015

Carrie Havrilla, a graduate student with the Barger lab, has been awarded an NSF Pre-doctoral Research Fellowship to pursue her research on biological crusts.  Congratulations Carrie!!  Please see below for a brief synopsis of Carrie's study:

The role of biocrusts in regulating dryland plant communities and exotic plant invasibility

Biological soil crusts (biocrusts), bio-sedimentary assemblages of cyanobacteria, lichens, fungi, and mosses, constitute up to 70 percent of biotic cover in drylands, and play a critical role in the ecological function of drylands through provision of a suite of ecosystem services. Although biocrusts modify important plantlimiting resources, the influence of biocrusts on surrounding vascular plants is mixed, whereby biocrusts have been shown to have both facilitory and inhibitory effects on plant establishment and growth. In this project, I will explore the role of biocrust disturbance and restoration in regulating dryland native plant community composition and exotic plant invasibility. I will conduct complementary full-factorial greenhouse and field experiments in the cold Great Basin Desert of Utah, and the hot Chihuahuan Desert of southeastern New Mexico. I will examine native and exotic vascular plant germination, establishment, and growth in response to biocrust disturbance and restoration treatments compared to untreated controls. Importantly, this will serve as one of the first studies to evaluate biocrusts as a tool to promote native plant restoration and ecosystem resistance to exotic plant invasion.