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Johnston awarded grant to study biodiversity

Wednesday, 03 March 2010

University of Maine at Presque Isle Assistant Professor of Wildlife Ecology Dr. Jason Johnston is conducting a three-year study - that ultimately will help to improve the ecological health and biodiversity of managed forests - after receiving a $34,588 grant from the Northeastern States Research Cooperative.

Johnston's grant proposal Effects of Forest Type and Stand Characteristics on Seasonal Abundance of Forest-floor Invertebrates was one of six grants funded during the competitive grant process. His research, which involves collaboration with Ken White of Seven Islands Land Company, focuses on the relationships between the structure and composition of forest stands and the abundance of invertebrates in those stands.

Because invertebrates are the basis of many vertebrate food webs, discovering how abundant invertebrates are in specific forest stands will help Johnston to determine how different forest management practices in those forest stands impact the amount of food available for animals that live there.

Johnston is working to better document the habitat-related and temporal variations of invertebrates in four different forest types: even-age plantation, even-age natural regeneration, late successional spruce/fir, and late successional hemlock. This will involve sampling ground and foliage dwelling invertebrates, such as spiders and beetles, and measuring the types of food specific birds are consuming at his four sampling sites.

"The hope is to improve forest ecologists and managers' collective ability to collaborate and find creative solutions to implementing sustainable forestry," Johnston said.

He explained that could involve establishing bioindicators of sustainable forestry or creating slight modifications in forestry management practices, but that moving toward such solutions will be easier with the availability of more research.

Johnston pointed out that two recent projects he has undertaken contributed to his application for the NSRC funds. His biodiversity study will continue the research he did for a recent paper he wrote with co-author R.L. Holberton titled Forest management and temporal effects on food abundance for a ground-foraging bird (Catharus guttatus) which appeared in the journal Forest Ecology and Management. Johnston also recently conducted a pilot study during the summer of 2008 to support his grant application. As part of this pilot study, his General Ecology students assisted him in identifying, sorting, and tallying insect and spiders from 80 samples during a 3-hour lab.

The Northeastern States Research Cooperative is a competitive grant program that supports cross-disciplinary, collaborative research in the Northern Forest - a 26 million-acre working landscape that is home to over a million residents and stretches from eastern Maine through New Hampshire and Vermont into northern New York. A central component of the program is the importance of the Northern Forest to society and the need for research activities to have relevance to the people who live within its boundaries, work with its resources, use its products, visit it and care about it.The USDA Forest Service provides funding for the NSRC.

For more information about the NSRC, visit www.uvm.edu/envnr/nsrc. For more information about Dr. Johnston's research, visit his website at http://www.umpi.maine.edu/~jasonj/.