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YPIE Scientist: Anushka Singh

Research: The Effect of Habitat Fragmentation on Soil Properties and Plant Performance NYSSEF Project Plan

Awards: Somers Science Fair 2022 - 1st place Environmental Science

Mentor: Dr. Begley Miller

Research Location: Teatown Lake Reservation


Urbanization is defined as the process of developing unoccupied land for human interest, and a major impact is habitat loss, or the reduction in the amount of space that a particular species or group of species can survive and reproduce.2 Habitat fragmentation is defined as the process of large, contiguous habitats getting divided into smaller, isolated patches of habitats.4,5 For plants, as anthropogenic development encroaches closer on natural spaces, habitat fragmentation can create edge effects, reduce biodiversity, and reduce genetic diversity and increase inbreeding in species living in fragmented habitats. At the Teatown Lake Reservation in Ossining, New York, we assessed the impact of habitat fragmentation on native and invasive plant performance. We selected four locations impacted by habitat fragmentation and collected data about soil properties such as compaction, pH, temperature, moisture, and chemical levels, as well as the biomass and height of five different species of native and five different species of invasive plants at distances both near and far from the area of active fragmentation. We found that the distance of plants did not affect the pH, compaction, nutrient levels, or temperature of their soil. Near plants had less soil moisture than far, possibly due to human disturbance making moisture less able to penetrate into the soil. Native plants were found to be taller than invasive plants, attributed to the upkeep done at the Teatown Lake Reservation. Most significantly, plants closer to human disturbances have less biomass. As humans continue to intrude on natural spaces, plants will be negatively affected, carrying harmful implications for plants and animals’ habitat, food supply, and energy utilization.

About this Scientist:

Anushka Singh is a junior at Yonkers High School. Inspired by her enduring love of nature, her research centers on human impacts on the environment. She plans on pursuing environmental engineering in the future to combine her passion for STEM and desire to make a positive change in the world.

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