Laura Powers L&S Sciences
Effects of Wildfire and Invasives on California Grassland Microbiomes
The devastation caused by intensifying wildfires in California over several decades has had increasingly detrimental effects on the diversity of native vegetation and the soil microbiome, which are critical in shaping plant growth and function. However, we still know very little about how native soil microbiomes are affected by wildfire and their role in host plant recovery. Specifically, we do not know how soil microbiomes of California grasslands (which evolved with periodic, low-intensity fires) mediate the recovery of native vegetation and how they may interact with non-native plants. As both fires and non-native plant invasion are major forces shaping grasslands, understanding their interaction is essential to improve restoration practices. In my research, I will investigate how pyrophilic bacteria and native pre-fire taxa change in their abundance in burned and unburned soils on sites that have been invaded or not by non-native plants at Blue Oak Ranch Reserve. Better understanding of the host-microbe interactions will be a powerful tool to help with outcompeting invasive species or recovering post-fire.