Research Publication Title

Effect of Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense) on nutrient cycling in Georgia’s Piedmont region

Presenter Information

Mark ChadwickFollow

Major

Environmental Science

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Christine Mutiti

Keywords

invasive, decomposition, nutrient, cycling

Abstract

The cycling of nutrients in an ecosystem plays an important role in supplying nutrients for plant growth and maintaining the overall health of that environment. Decomposition rates impact availability of essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium by influencing how fast those nutrients are recycled through an ecosystem by changing them from organic form in plants to inorganic forms in the soil. Invasive species can disrupt the health of an ecosystem by altering how nutrients are cycled. The goal of this study was to compare the decomposition of forest litter in different combinations to determine whether the presence of an invasive species, Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense), affected how fast the litter decomposed to release nutrients back to the soil. Leaf litter was collected from Bartram Forest and the Oconee River Greenway in Milledgeville, GA in November 2017 and separated into privet-only litter and non-privet litter. The litter was placed into mesh litter bags in three groups: 1) privet litter only, 2) native litter only, and 3) half of each. A set of litter bags containing inert material were also prepared. These bags were then placed in Bartram Forest and collected at intervals of 0, 4, 8, 16, and 38 weeks. After each collection, the litter was oven dried, weighed, and ground into a fine powder for analysis. The concentrations of carbon and nitrogen in the samples were analyzed using a CHN elemental analyzer. Preliminary results indicate that the litter with privet only had a higher concentration of nitrogen and decomposed twice as fast as litter that only consisted of native species. Amount of privet present can therefore, alter nutrient cycling dynamics. For instance, faster decomposition rates during non-growth periods could return limited nutrients to the soil quicker than usual, which may lead to nitrogen leaching.

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Effect of Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense) on nutrient cycling in Georgia’s Piedmont region

The cycling of nutrients in an ecosystem plays an important role in supplying nutrients for plant growth and maintaining the overall health of that environment. Decomposition rates impact availability of essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium by influencing how fast those nutrients are recycled through an ecosystem by changing them from organic form in plants to inorganic forms in the soil. Invasive species can disrupt the health of an ecosystem by altering how nutrients are cycled. The goal of this study was to compare the decomposition of forest litter in different combinations to determine whether the presence of an invasive species, Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense), affected how fast the litter decomposed to release nutrients back to the soil. Leaf litter was collected from Bartram Forest and the Oconee River Greenway in Milledgeville, GA in November 2017 and separated into privet-only litter and non-privet litter. The litter was placed into mesh litter bags in three groups: 1) privet litter only, 2) native litter only, and 3) half of each. A set of litter bags containing inert material were also prepared. These bags were then placed in Bartram Forest and collected at intervals of 0, 4, 8, 16, and 38 weeks. After each collection, the litter was oven dried, weighed, and ground into a fine powder for analysis. The concentrations of carbon and nitrogen in the samples were analyzed using a CHN elemental analyzer. Preliminary results indicate that the litter with privet only had a higher concentration of nitrogen and decomposed twice as fast as litter that only consisted of native species. Amount of privet present can therefore, alter nutrient cycling dynamics. For instance, faster decomposition rates during non-growth periods could return limited nutrients to the soil quicker than usual, which may lead to nitrogen leaching.