Laureen Kelly - Research

 

Kelly - Research

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Shrubby Reed-Mustard Habitat: Parent Material, Soil and Landscape Characteristics

Shrubby reed-mustard, or Glaucocarpum suffrutescens, is an endangered perennial shrub endemic to the Uinta Basin in northeast Utah. Only seven populations of shrubby reed-mustard have been identified. The area where the plant grows is rich in natural gas and oil deposits, as well as oil shale. Oil wells already dot the landscape, and there is significant concern that further development of these resources will threaten the continued existence of shrubby reed-mustard. Determination of the parent material, soil and landscape characteristics associated with shrubby reed-mustard habitat is imperative to facilitate conservation management.

Shrubby reed-mustard flowers have petals that are light yellow or greenish yellow. When in bloom, the shrub has 5 to 20 flowers at the end of the plant’s leafy stems.

 


Our shrubby reed-mustard project seeks to identify the characteristic environment of this brightly colored plant. Extensive field observation, soil sampling with laboratory characterization, and descriptive and statistical analysis of data are all required to fully characterize the habitation of shrubby reed-mustard. Based on those determinations, we will develop a decision-making tool for identifying potential habitat for this endangered species. Validation of the decision making tool will be performed. It may be possible to use derivatives of remotely sensed spectral data (e.g., Landsat 7 ETM+, ASTER) and topographic data (e.g., digital elevation models) to predict potential habitat at a larger spatial scale.


Initial field characterization and soil profile sampling was conducted in October 2010. Soil profiles were sampled from three different locations within the Uinta Basin. Probably the most important field observation made regarding the soil where shrubby reed-mustard grew was the parent material. Shrubby reed-mustard grew exclusively in soils derived from shale. On the sites sampled where shrubby reed-mustard did not grow, but where other species existed, the soil parent material was sandstone. Laboratory characterization of soils collected is on-going. Data trends and statistical findings have yet to be determined from preliminary lab results.

Characteristic shrubby reed-mustard habitat.

 


Further field characterization and sampling will resume in Spring 2011. Selection of spring sampling locations will be influenced by the results of the Fall 2010 characterization. Elucidation of parameters for plant re-establishment is imperative to the survival of shrubby reed-mustard, given the current and future development of the area where this plant is endemic.