Basil V. Iannone III
Predoctoral Fellow 2011-2012, Institute for Environmental Science and Policy
Interdisciplinary and novel approaches to understanding the ecology of Rhamnus cathartica L. (European buckthorn) invasion and management
My dissertation project entitled, Interdisciplinary and novel approaches to understanding the ecology of Rhamnus cathartica L. (European buckthorn) invasion and management, is comprised of five interrelated, interdisciplinary studies that are designed to make inferences about various stages of buckthorn invasion ranging from its initial establishment and spread to the belowground consequences of its removal. Thus far my research has revealed the following insights that will assist in the management of this invasive shrub: 1) buckthorn is more likely to invade areas of woodlands where the soils are basic (high pH and calcium), fertile (high nitrogen and organic material), and retain moisture throughout the growing season; 2) smaller buckthorn individuals (stem diameter = 0.4 -1.0 cm) can be up to 12 yrs old, which illustrates that ‘light’ invasions are likely much older than originally perceived and that buckthorn invasion is a long-term process; 3) regional buckthorn growth rates have declined 50% since 1981; 4) reinvasion of buckthorn after its initial removal in high-light environments is related to smaller individuals that were over looked during initial removal efforts rather than to new seedling recruitment; 5) amending soils with carbon to immobilize nitrogen after buckthorn removal does not limit reinvasion as it does for other invasive plants; and 6) the length of time that buckthorn has been removed from an area is negatively related to the abundance of exotic earthworms, in particular the litter-consuming species Lumbricus terrestris.
My research, which lies at the interface of applied and basic ecology, focuses on understanding the many ways that individual species, community composition, and ecosystem processes interact to influence one another and community change over time, particularly in the context of biological invasions and ecological restorations. I, further, try to study systems as holistically as possible and have, therefore, become interested in non-reductionist techniques such as multivariate statistics and agent-based models that allow for the detection of significant patterns among the many highly-interrelated factors that exist in ecological systems.