Matching Items (16)

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Coupled Abiotic and Biotic Cycling of Nitrous Oxide

Description

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is an important greenhouse gas and an oxidant respired by a

diverse range of anaerobic microbes, but its sources and sinks are poorly understood. The overarching goal of

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is an important greenhouse gas and an oxidant respired by a

diverse range of anaerobic microbes, but its sources and sinks are poorly understood. The overarching goal of my dissertation is to explore abiotic N2O formation and microbial N2O consumption across reducing environments of the early and modern Earth. By combining experiments as well as diffusion and atmospheric modeling, I present evidence that N2O production can be catalyzed on iron mineral surfaces that may have been present in shallow waters of the Archean ocean. Using photochemical models, I showed that tropospheric N2O concentrations close to modern ones (ppb range) were possible before O2 accumulated. In peatlands of the Amazon basin (modern Earth), unexpected abiotic activity became apparent under anoxic conditions. However, care has to be taken to adequately disentangle abiotic from biotic reactions. I identified significant sterilant-induced changes in Fe2+ and dissolved organic matter pools (determined by fluorescence spectroscopy). Among all chemical and physical sterilants tested, γ - irradiation showed the least effect on reactant pools. Targeting geochemically diverse peatlands across Central and South America, I present evidence that coupled abiotic and biotic cycling of N2O could be a widespread phenomenon. Using isotopic tracers in the field, I showed that abiotic N2O fluxes rival biotic ones under in-situ conditions. Moreover, once N2O is produced, it is rapidly consumed by N2O-reducing microbes. Using amplicon sequencing and metagenomics, I demonstrated that this surprising N2O sink potential is associated with diverse bacteria, including the recently discovered clade II that is present in high proportions at Amazonian sites based on nosZ quantities. Finally, to evaluate the impact of nitrogen oxides on methane production in peatlands, I characterized soil nitrite (NO2–) and N2O abundances along soil profiles. I complemented field analyses with molecular work by deploying amplicon-based 16S rRNA and mcrA sequencing. The diversity and activity of soil methanogens was affected by the presence of NO2– and N2O, suggesting that methane emissions could be influenced by N2O cycling dynamics. Overall, my work proposes a key role for N2O in Earth systems across time and a central position in tropical microbial ecosystems.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2020

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Urban Ecology for Conservation: Evaluating Social and Ecological Drivers of Biodiversity Change Over Time

Description

Global biodiversity is threatened by anthropogenic impacts, as the global population becomes increasingly urbanized. Conservation researchers and practitioners increasingly recognize the potential of cities to support biodiversity and foster human-nature

Global biodiversity is threatened by anthropogenic impacts, as the global population becomes increasingly urbanized. Conservation researchers and practitioners increasingly recognize the potential of cities to support biodiversity and foster human-nature interactions. However, further understanding of social and ecological mechanisms driving change in urban biodiversity over time is needed. In this dissertation, I first synthesized evidence for the urban homogenization hypothesis, which proposes that cities are more similar across space and time than are the natural communities they replace. I found that approaches to testing urban homogenization varied widely, but there is evidence for convergence at regional spatial scales and for some taxa. This work revealed a lack of long-term urban studies, as well as support for social and ecological mechanisms driving homogenization.

Building from this systematic literature review, I tested the effects of a long-term nutrient enrichment experiment in urban and near-urban desert preserves to evaluate indirect urban impacts on natural plant communities over time. Urban preserves and nitrogen-fertilized plots supported fewer annual wildflower species, limiting their effectiveness for biodiversity conservation and nature provisioning for urban residents.

Finally, I conducted research on residential yards in Phoenix, Arizona, to explore the effects of individual management behavior on urban plant community dynamics. Using a front yard vegetation survey repeated at three time points and a paired social survey, I asked, to what extent are yard plant communities dynamic over time, and how do attitudes and parcel characteristics affect native plant landscaping? Front yard woody plant communities experienced high turnover on a decadal scale, indicating that these managed communities are dynamic and capable of change for conservation benefit. Residents held positive attitudes toward native plants, but cultivated few in their yards. Priorities such as desired functional traits, attitudes toward native plants, and household income predicted native plant abundance, while knowledge of native plants did not.

This body of work contributes to the growing understanding of how urban ecosystems change over time in response to local- and city-scale impacts, demonstrating opportunities to engage urban residents and land managers in local conservation action to improve the value of cities for people and biodiversity.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2020

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Soil moisture availability and energetic controls on belowground network complexity and function in arid ecosystems

Description

The explicit role of soil organisms in shaping soil health, rates of pedogenesis, and resistance to erosion has only just recently begun to be explored in the last century. However,

The explicit role of soil organisms in shaping soil health, rates of pedogenesis, and resistance to erosion has only just recently begun to be explored in the last century. However, much of the research regarding soil biota and soil processes is centered on maintaining soil fertility (e.g., plant nutrient availability) and soil structure in mesic- and agro- ecosystems. Despite the empirical and theoretical strides made in soil ecology over the last few decades, questions regarding ecosystem function and soil processes remain, especially for arid areas. Arid areas have unique ecosystem biogeochemistry, decomposition processes, and soil microbial responses to moisture inputs that deviate from predictions derived using data generated in more mesic systems. For example, current paradigm predicts that soil microbes will respond positively to increasing moisture inputs in a water-limited environment, yet data collected in arid regions are not congruent with this hypothesis. The influence of abiotic factors on litter decomposition rates (e.g., photodegradation), litter quality and availability, soil moisture pulse size, and resulting feedbacks on detrital food web structure must be explicitly considered for advancing our understanding of arid land ecology. However, empirical data coupling arid belowground food webs and ecosystem processes are lacking. My dissertation explores the resource controls (soil organic matter and soil moisture) on food web network structure, size, and presence/absence of expected belowground trophic groups across a variety of sites in Arizona.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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Sustaining irrigation agriculture for the long-term: lessons on maintaining soil quality from ancient agricultural fields in the Phoenix Basin and on the north coast of Peru

Description

Irrigation agriculture has been heralded as the solution to feeding the world's growing population. To this end, irrigation agriculture is both extensifying and intensifying in arid regions across the world

Irrigation agriculture has been heralded as the solution to feeding the world's growing population. To this end, irrigation agriculture is both extensifying and intensifying in arid regions across the world in an effort to create highly productive agricultural systems. Over one third of modern irrigated fields, however, show signs of serious soil degradation, including salinization and waterlogging, which threaten the productivity of these fields and the world's food supply. Surprisingly, little ecological data on agricultural soils have been collected to understand and address these problems. How, then, can expanding and intensifying modern irrigation systems remain agriculturally productive for the long-term? Archaeological case studies can provide critical insight into how irrigated agricultural systems may be sustainable for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Irrigation systems in Mesopotamia, for example, have been cited consistently as a cautionary tale of the relationship between mismanaged irrigation systems and the collapse of civilizations, but little data expressly link how and why irrigation failed in the past. This dissertation presents much needed ecological data from two different regions of the world - the Phoenix Basin in southern Arizona and the Pampa de Chaparrí on the north coast of Peru - to explore how agricultural soils were affected by long-term irrigation in a variety of social and economic contexts, including the longevity and intensification of irrigation agriculture. Data from soils in prehispanic and historic agricultural fields indicate that despite long-lived and intensive irrigation farming, farmers in both regions created strategies to sustain large populations with irrigation agriculture for hundreds of years. In the Phoenix Basin, Hohokam and O'odham farmers relied on sedimentation from irrigation water to add necessary fine sediments and nutrients to otherwise poor desert soils. Similarly, on the Pampa, farmers relied on sedimentation in localized contexts, but also constructed fields with ridges and furrows to draw detrimental salts away from planting surfaces in the furrows on onto the ridges. These case studies are then compared to failing modern and ancient irrigated systems across the world to understand how the centralization of management may affect the long-term sustainability of irrigation agriculture.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2013

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Direct and indirect ecological consequences of human activities in urban and native ecosystems

Description

Though cities occupy only a small percentage of Earth's terrestrial surface, humans concentrated in urban areas impact ecosystems at local, regional and global scales. I examined the direct and

Though cities occupy only a small percentage of Earth's terrestrial surface, humans concentrated in urban areas impact ecosystems at local, regional and global scales. I examined the direct and indirect ecological outcomes of human activities on both managed landscapes and protected native ecosystems in and around cities. First, I used highly managed residential yards, which compose nearly half of the heterogeneous urban land area, as a model system to examine the ecological effects of people's management choices and the social drivers of those decisions. I found that a complex set of individual and institutional social characteristics drives people's decisions, which in turn affect ecological structure and function across scales from yards to cities. This work demonstrates the link between individuals' decision-making and ecosystem service provisioning in highly managed urban ecosystems.

Second, I examined the distribution of urban-generated air pollutants and their complex ecological outcomes in protected native ecosystems. Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), reactive nitrogen (N), and ozone (O3) are elevated near human activities and act as both resources and stressors to primary producers, but little is known about their co-occurring distribution or combined impacts on ecosystems. I investigated the urban "ecological airshed," including the spatial and temporal extent of N deposition, as well as CO2 and O3 concentrations in native preserves in Phoenix, Arizona and the outlying Sonoran Desert. I found elevated concentrations of ecologically relevant pollutants co-occur in both urban and remote native lands at levels that are likely to affect ecosystem structure and function. Finally, I tested the combined effects of CO2, N, and O3 on the dominant native and non-native herbaceous desert species in a multi-factor dose-response greenhouse experiment. Under current and predicted future air quality conditions, the non-native species (Schismus arabicus) had net positive growth despite physiological stress under high O3 concentrations. In contrast, the native species (Pectocarya recurvata) was more sensitive to O3 and, unlike the non-native species, did not benefit from the protective role of CO2. These results highlight the vulnerability of native ecosystems to current and future air pollution over the long term. Together, my research provides empirical evidence for future policies addressing multiple stressors in urban managed and native landscapes.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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It All Comes Out in the Wash: Mammal Use of Riparian Corridors in Semi-Arid Sonora, Mexico

Description

Land use change driven by human population expansion continues to influence

the integrity and configuration of riparian corridors worldwide. Wildlife viability in semi-arid regions depend heavily on the connectivity of riparian

Land use change driven by human population expansion continues to influence

the integrity and configuration of riparian corridors worldwide. Wildlife viability in semi-arid regions depend heavily on the connectivity of riparian corridors, since water is the primary limiting resource. The Madrean Archipelago in northern Mexico and southwestern United States (US) is a biodiversity hotspot that supports imperiled wildlife like jaguar (Panthera onca) and ocelot (Leopardus pardalis). Recent and ongoing infrastructure developments in the historically understudied US-México borderlands region, such as the border wall and expansion of Federal Highway 2, are altering wildlife movement and disconnecting essential habitat.

I used wildlife cameras to assess species occupancy, abundance, and related habitat variables affecting the use of washes as corridors for mammals in semi-arid Los Ojos (LO), a private ranch within a 530 km2 priority conservation area in Sonora, México located south of the border and Federal Highway 2. From October 2018 to April 2019, I deployed 21 wildlife cameras in five different riparian corridors within LO. I used single- season occupancy models and Royal Nichols abundance models to explore the relationship between habitat variables and use of riparian corridors by mammal communities of conservation concern within this region.

Twenty-one mammal species were recorded in the study area, including American black bear (Ursus americanus), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and the first sighting of jaguar (Panthera onca) in this region in 25 years. For the 11 medium- and large-bodied mammals recorded, habitat variables related to perennial river characteristics (distance to river, weekly water, and site width) and remoteness (distance from highway, elevation, and NDVI) were important for occupancy, but the direction of the relationship varied by species. For commonly observed species such as mountain lion (Puma concolor) and white-nosed coati (Nasua narica), topographic variety was highly informative for species abundance. These results highlight the importance of habitat diversity when identifying corridors for future protection to conserve wildlife communities in semi-arid regions. Additionally, this study provides robust evidence in support of mitigation measures (e.g. funnel fencing, over- or under- passes) along Federal Highway 2, and other barriers such as the border wall, to facilitate wildlife connectivity.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2020

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Potential emergence of dengue in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area: a micro-climatic and demographic analysis

Description

The spread of dengue worldwide currently places half of the world’s population at risk. In the absence of a dengue vaccine, control of the disease requires control of the mosquito

The spread of dengue worldwide currently places half of the world’s population at risk. In the absence of a dengue vaccine, control of the disease requires control of the mosquito species that transmit the virus. The most important of these is. Advances in research detailing the responsiveness of Aedes aegypti to small changes in climate enable the production of more sophisticated remote sensing and surveillance techniques for monitoring these populations. Close monitoring of global dengue activity and outbreaks likewise enables a greater specificity when determining to which human populations the virus is most likely to spread. There have been no locally acquired cases in Arizona to date, but the high abundance of Aedes aegypti in the Phoenix Metropolitan area raises concern within the Arizona Department of Health Services over the potential transmission of dengue in the city. This study develops a model that combines mosquito abundance, micro-climatic and demographic information to delineate regions in Phoenix that are most support transmission of dengue. The first chapter focuses on the impact that daytime high and low temperatures have on Aedes aegypti’s ability to become infectious with dengue. It argues that NDVI (normal difference vegetative index) imaging of the Phoenix area can be used to plot areas where mosquitoes are most likely to become competent vectors. The second chapter focuses on the areas in the city where mosquitoes are most likely to be exposed to the virus. Based on proximity to Phoenix and the high volume of traffic across the Arizona-Mexico border, I treat the Mexican state of Sonora as the source of infection. I combine these two analyses, micro-climatic and demographic, to produce maps of Phoenix that show the locations with the highest likelihood of transmission overall.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2016

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Dimensions of Phosphorus Sustainability: Phosphorus Flows in a Rapidly Growing City and Field Tests of Potential Agricultural Prototypes

Description

Phosphorus (P) is a limiting nutrient in ecosystems and is mainly used as fertilizer to grow food. The demand for P is increasing due to the need for increased food

Phosphorus (P) is a limiting nutrient in ecosystems and is mainly used as fertilizer to grow food. The demand for P is increasing due to the need for increased food supply to support a growing population. However, P is obtained from phosphate rock, a finite resource that takes millions of years to form. These phosphate rock deposits are found in only a few countries. This uneven distribution of phosphate rock leads to a potential imbalance in socio-economic systems, generating food security pressure due to unaffordability of P fertilizer. Thus, the first P-sustainability concern is a stable supply of affordable P fertilizer for agriculture. In addition, improper management of P from field to fork leaves an open end in the global P cycle that results in widespread water pollution. This eutrophication leads to toxic algal blooms and hypoxic “dead zones”. Thus, the second P-sustainability concern involves P pollution from agriculture and cities. This thesis focuses on P flows in a city (Macau as a case study) and on potential strategies for improvements of sustainable P management in city and agriculture. Chapter 2 showed a P-substance-flow analysis for Macau from 1998-2016. Macau is a city with a unique economy build on tourism. The major P flows into Macau were from food, detergent, and sand (for land reclamation). P recovery from wastewater treatment could enhance Macau’s overall P sustainability if the recovered P could be directed towards replacing mined P used to produce food. Chapters 3 and 4 tested a combination of P sustainability management tactics including recycling P from cities and enhancing P-use efficiency (PUE) in agriculture. Algae and biosolids were used as recycled-P fertilizers, and genetically transformed lettuce was used as the a PUE-enhanced crop. This P sustainable system was compared to the conventional agricultural system using commercial fertilizer and the wild type lettuce. Chapters 3 and 4 showed that trying to combine a PUE-enhancement strategy with P recycling did not work well, although organic fertilizers like algae and biosolids may be more beneficial as part of longer-term agricultural practices. This would be a good area for future research.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2020

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Desert playa wetlands: ecological controls of their functioning and responses to climate change

Description

The Basin and Range province of southwestern USA are composed of different grassland and shrubland ecosystems. Particularly understudied ecosystems in this region are playas, which are ephemerally-flooded wetlands located in

The Basin and Range province of southwestern USA are composed of different grassland and shrubland ecosystems. Particularly understudied ecosystems in this region are playas, which are ephemerally-flooded wetlands located in topographic low areas of hydrologically-closed dryland catchments. There is not much known about the ecological functioning of playas and the role of playas within desert basins. Even less is known about how global change drivers may affect playas in the future. The main objective of this thesis was to better understand the ecological functioning and the impact of climate change on desert playa wetlands. I collected new data, used existing long-term data, and used simulation modelling techniques to address this objective. I compared playa soils to upland soils and found that playas were hotspots of soil organic carbon and nutrient storage within a desert basin. I also used existing data to analyze the response of above-ground net primary productivity (ANPP) to annual precipitation in playas and upland ecosystems. I found that playa ANPP responded in a non-linear concave-down relationship with annual precipitation amount. Playa ANPP peaked in moderately wet years and declined in very wet years, which was most likely due to flooding; whereas, upland ANPP increased linearly with precipitation. I measured soil organic carbon and nitrogen concentrations in a representative subset of playas and measured the biophysical characteristics of the upland catchments associated with each playa. I found that both catchment geomorphology and vegetation cover were correlated to differences in soil organic carbon and nitrogen among playas. These results showed the importance external soil-inputs delivered via surface runon to playas. Finally, I empirically measured groundwater recharge beneath playas and combined these empirical data with modelling data to forecast how playa groundwater recharge may change in the future. I concluded that playas contribute to groundwater recharge in desert aquifers, playa runon is a strong predictor of playa groundwater recharge, and climate change will have a net-positive impact on groundwater recharge beneath playas. Overall, my thesis research increased the understanding of the role of desert playas on the functioning of dryland ecosystems.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2016

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Plant community composition along the historic Verde River irrigation system: does hydrochory play a role?

Description

As an industrial society, humans have increasingly separated agricultural processes from natural ecosystems. Many areas of the Southwestern US, however, maintain traditional practices that link agricultural systems to the

As an industrial society, humans have increasingly separated agricultural processes from natural ecosystems. Many areas of the Southwestern US, however, maintain traditional practices that link agricultural systems to the natural environment. One such practice, diverting river water into fields via earthen irrigation canals, allows ditch water to recharge groundwater and riparian vegetation to prosper along canal banks. As there is growing interest in managing landscapes for multiple ecosystem services, this study was undertaken to determine if irrigation canals function as an extension of the riparian corridor. I was specifically interested in determining if the processes within semi-arid streams that drive riparian plant community structure are manifested in earthen irrigation ditches. I examined herbaceous and woody vegetation along the middle Verde River, AZ, USA and three adjacent irrigation ditches across six months. I also collected sieved hydrochores--seeds dispersing through water--within ditches and the river twelve times. Results indicate that ditch vegetation was similar to streamside river vegetation in abundance (cover and basal area) due to surface water availability but more diverse than river streamside vegetation due to high heterogeneity. Compositionally, herbaceous vegetation along the ditch was most similar to the river banks, while low disturbance fostered woody vegetation along the ditches similar to high floodplain and river terrace vegetation. Hydrochore richness and abundance within the river was dependent on seasonality and stream discharge, but these relationships were dampened in the ditches. Species-specific strategies of hydrochory, however, did emerge in both systems. Strategies include pulse species, which disperse via hydrochory in strict accordance with their restricted dispersal windows, constant species, which are year round hydrochores, and combination species, which show characteristics of both. There was high overlap in the composition of hydrochores in the two systems, with obligate wetland species abundant in both. Upland species were more seasonally constant and abundant in the ditch water than the river. The consistency of river processes and similarity of vegetation suggest that earthen irrigation ditches do function as an extension of the riparian corridor. Thus, these man-made irrigation ditches should be considered by stakeholders for their multiple ecosystem services.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2010