Researchers studying diversity effects of eastern redcedar

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Researchers studying diversity effects of eastern redcedar

A University of Nebraska–Lincoln project to study the effects of eastern redcedar on the diversity and ecosystems of Nebraska forests and forest-prairie margin has received a $28,163 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) is a dramatically expanding tree species threatening Nebraska’s prairie and forest ecosystems. There have been large expenditures on manual removal of redcedar, but the effects of removal are poorly understood. The goal of this project is to quantify how removal of redcedar from habitats on the south margin of the Niobrara River affects plant diversity in these forests and adjacent prairie.

“We will use remote sensing to estimate large-scale effects of eastern redcedar on performance of trees based on differences in leaf hyperspectral reflectance in areas of high versus low red cedar density,” said Sabrina Russo, professor of biological sciences and project lead.

The project will use an existing 51-acre forest inventory plot established by Russo spanning the prairie-forest boundary. In the Niobrara plot, located in the Niobrara Valley Preserve near Johnstown, 8,293 trees, comprising 26 species, of at least 0.4 inches in diameter have been mapped, tagged, identified and measured. The detailed spatial data in the Niobrara plot will enable ground-truthing of remote-sensing images by comparing portions of the plot where redcedar has and has not been removed. Researchers then will apply these methods of spectral analysis across the Niobrara watershed covered in the remote-sensing image.

The project is one of 23 Husker projects receiving more than $2.1 million from NET this year. In total, NET awarded 113 grants totaling more than $18 million in 2021.

The Nebraska Legislature created the NET in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the trust has provided more than $349 million in grants to more than 2,400 projects across the state. Anyone — citizens, organizations, communities, farmers and businesses — can apply for funding to protect habitat, improve water quality and establish recycling programs in Nebraska. The NET works to preserve, protect and restore the state’s natural resources for future generations.

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