Building Resilience Into Restored Prairies

Building Resilience Into Restored Praries (INT)
Tyler Basset, Michigan State University
Additional Contributors: Emily Grman, Eastern Michigan University; Lars Brudvig, Chad Zirbel, Michigan State University

Natural ecosystems face an unprecedented host of stresses including fragmentation and land use pressures, biological invasions, nitrogen deposition and the vagaries of climate change. More than two decades of ecological experiments suggests that ecosystems that are higher in diversity of primary producers are more resistant (change less) and resilient (bounce back quicker) to perturbation and are generally less variable over time. Therefore, when restoring ecosystems, increased plant diversity should confer stability in the face of stress. Natural ecosystems are more dynamic than most experimental systems, however, and diversity may be a destabilizing force. I will present results from three years of data collection in prairie restorations (including a drought year), testing for links between plant diversity and the stability of plant productivity. Results show that more diverse sites were generally less stable, but this begs two questions: 1) what do we mean by stability, and 2) stability of what?

Tyler Basset, Michigan State University
Tyler Bassett has remained immersed in botany and ecology ever since earning a BS in biology from Western Michigan University in 2000, working as a botanist and ecologist informing conservation and restoration of natural habitats. He is currently a PhD candidate at Michigan State University in the Department of Plant Biology and the Kellogg Biological Station. He studies the links between plant species diversity and the environment they live in, especially as relates to the functioning of ecosystems and the services they provide.