Decomposition and fungal diversity in restored tallgrass prairies
Natural areas are managed using aboveground methods, but these methods have profound influences on belowground processes. Decomposition is an important process that is driven by soil organisms and determines nutrient availability for next year's plant growth. This project investigates how restoration methods influence decomposition and fungal decomposer communities. Leaf litter bags containing a grass, forb and legume were installed in over 20 prairies around Chicago in December 2012. We will measure leaf litter mass loss at these sites and extract fungal DNA from the leaf tissue and use molecular methods to determine what species are driving decomposition processes.