Fertilization of substrate surrounding transplanted low-Arctic tundra sods significantly increases belowground biomass development

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Ian Hnatowich, Katherine Stewart

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Low Arctic ecosystems in Canada present significant challenges for ecological restoration, including remote locations, harsh climates, short-growing seasons, and a lack of readily available native propagules. There is a need for low technology based approaches that employ local and on-site materials. Previous research has identified transplantation of “sods” (i.e., blocks of native vegetation and soil) as a simple, cost-effective, and efficient method for revegetation of disturbed sites. This study examined the responses of transplanted sods (approximately 0.13 m2 by 0.1 m deep) to nitrogen and phosphorus fertilization in a growth chamber experiment using sods harvested from undisturbed dry-heath tundra near Rankin Inlet, Canada. Aboveground plant community composition and normalized difference vegetative index (NDVI) images were assessed 140 days following fertilization to examine aboveground responses and vegetative health. Belowground biomass exiting the sod was determined and species identified through next-generation sequencing. Preliminary results indicate limited change within the aboveground community of the sods, however, fertilization of the surrounding substrate significantly increased root expansion from the sods, and resulted in significantly higher NDVI values, moss cover, and biological soil crust development on the substrate. Our study indicates that fertilization of adjacent substrates promotes belowground sod expansion and greater belowground biomass development, key to successful low Arctic restoration.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program