YPIE Scientist: Julia

Updated: May 23

Research: The Impact of Land Use History on Plant Invasions and Invasive Plant Diversity in Forest Ecosystems

Mentor: Dr. Brian Boom

Research Location: New York Botanical Garden


Biodiversity loss can prompt significant impacts on human health if ecosystems cannot sufficiently satisfy populations that consume natural resources for crucial purposes, i.e. nutrition, agriculture or industry. Biodiversity, a key component of natural environments, is threatened by ecological invasions both locally and on a global scale. It has been previously observed that invasive plant species growth is enhanced through the alteration of ecosystem functions through the methods in which land was utilized in the past. This study sought to evaluate a potential correlation between land use procedures that may modify ecosystem functions, tree growth and invasive plant abundance. An observational study was conducted to assess a possible correlation between land use history and invasive plant richness along with tree growth. Disturbed (n=30) and undisturbed (n=30) plots were categorized using aerial imagery across 3 locations. Each category of plot, i.e. disturbed and undisturbed, was surveyed using five 1m2 quadrats and diameter at breast height (DBH) measurements of trees within a 10m radius in each location. Diversity metrics using the Shannon’s index across all three locations were calculated to be -5.029136721 in disturbed plots and -3.337509116 in undisturbed plots. Mean DBH of trees within the disturbed category was calculated to be 12.7 cm, whereas mean DBH of trees residing in the undisturbed category was approximately 16.51 cm. A t-test which analyzed land use category as a predictor and mean tree diameter as a response demonstrated that there is no measurable impact of land use on average tree DBH (p=0.15). Likewise, MANOVA results (all p>0.05) implied no correlation between measured predictors, such as land use category and plant categorization, and measured responses, such as plant height and relative percent coverage. Processes of land use and ecosystem alteration did not represent notable impact on surrounding tree growth and plant growth, categorized by invasive and native groups. However, the type of land use category imposed a quantified impact on the abundance of invasive plant species in disturbed plots within all locations.

Presentation Slides

About this Scientist:

Julia Azulay is a junior at Yonkers High School who is pursuing methods of invasive plant species eradication through researching specific species. Julia participated in Teatown Environmental Science Academy’s Summer 2021 session, where she discovered her passions for terrestrial studies on the field and for invasive species studies. She is currently working with her mentor to examine an emerging invasive plant species, such as Corydalis incisa (incised fumewort), and its interactions with abiotic factors or a native plant species. Julia plans on continuing to study environmental science alongside English literature/English language arts in her college years.

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