climate challenge: changes in phenology
grant award: $250,000; Year awarded: 2018
High rates of climate change in the Southwestern U.S. have amplified the replacement of native plant species by invasive exotics, which provide poor habitats for wildlife. Changes in stream flows, growing season length, and soil microbial content due to invasive species have rendered the current practice of planting local stock unviable. Working in an area of degraded riparian habitat along the Little Colorado River in
Northern Arizona, this project will plant stocks of native tree species from lower-elevation populations that are adapted to the warm, dry conditions now present in the degraded riparian habitat. Local stock will also be planted as a basis of comparison and survival/growth will be monitored to inform future restoration approaches. In addition to this adaptive strategy, this project supports mitigation by increasing plant biomass for carbon sequestration and reducing the risk of fires that contribute to atmospheric carbon. Native plants will be inoculated with mycorrhizal fungi, which are absent from invasive species and to which an estimated 5-20% of a plant’s total carbon uptake can be allocated.