Date of Award

8-2020

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Biology (M.S.)

Department

Biology

First Advisor

M. Megan Woller-Skar

Second Advisor

Alexandra Locher

Third Advisor

Priscilla Nyamai

Academic Year

2019/2020

Abstract

The savanna system is an ecosystem (i.e. a transitional ecosystem) that lies between forest and grassland ecosystems. They occur across the world in various forms, but in the North American Midwest they are specifically oak savannas: systems where the open overstory is dominated by various species of oak (Quercus spp.) and the understory consists of carbon-rich prairie grasses and forbs. This ecosystem is a highly degraded ecosystem and has lost almost 99% of its former range due to agriculture and fire suppression. Since savannas are fire-evolved systems, they are maintained by and require fire as a regular disturbance to clear woody encroachment and keep the canopy open for the diverse understory. This study takes place in an oak savanna in the Muskegon State Game Area (MSGA) in Muskegon, Michigan. I quantified the amount of carbon that is stored in overgrown and restored plots of oak savanna, then compared the differences in sequestered carbon to other restoration goals, including understory community composition. Since this system, once restored, can theoretically store large amounts of carbon in the roots of the diverse understory, the goal of this study was to determine if there is a relationship between carbon storage and species diversity. These results will provide land managers with information regarding the application of species diversity and carbon sequestration measurement practices.

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