Summer Research

* Student(s): Mollie Wright
Advisor: William Pfitsch

Title: The Effect of Tree Removal on Light and Nitrogen Soil Content at the Rome Sand Plains


Beginning in 2002, a habitat restoration project began for the locally endangered butterfly, the frosted elfin, in the Rome Sand Plains. The butterfly requires a type of annual legume called the wild blue lupine for survival. Over the years the lupine population has been decreasing because of the increase in forest growth, specifically white pines. The project involved 18 identified test plots of semi-isolated lupine populations around pine trees, nine of which were removed in the winter of 2002-2003. The changes in the experimental plots have been tracked for the past two growing seasons. Specifically, this summer focused on the change in available light before and after tree removal and nitrogen content in the soil. It is hypothesized that the surrounding forest is blocking the light that the lupines need for growth, and the lupines are donating nitrogen to the environment, making it less suitable for themselves, as early successional plants. Canopy photographs were taken and analyzed at each test plot and a set of soil samples were analyzed using direct soil extractions, anion exchange resin bag extractions, and a Truspec CN analyzer. It was found that the nitrogen data was correlated with the increased available light in the cut plots, but not correlated as strongly in the plots where the pine trees were still present.

Support for MW's research provided by the GE Foundation.