The University of Colorado-Boulder announced on Thursday that it will head a research project focused on developing ways to restore lands in the U.S. that have been degraded by military exercises. Here are the details.
* According to the university, the project is being funded by a five-year, $2.3 million grant from the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program. This program is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense's environmental science and technology program and the Environmental Protection Agency.
* The project, headed by CU-Boulder Assistant Professor Nichole Barger, will focus on restoring biological soil crusts, the university stated. Biological soil crusts help to decrease erosion and increase water retention and soil fertility.
* Barger is a faculty member of CU-Boulder's ecology and environmental biology department. The research team will also include members from the U.S. Geological Survey's Biological Resources Division in Moab, Utah, and Arizona State University in Tempe.
* According to the university, the project will restore habitats in the U.S. desert areas that have been impacted by the movement of military vehicles and high foot traffic.
* Barger stated that, while biocrusts are resilient to wind and water erosion, they are "highly susceptible to compressional forces like those generated by foot and vehicle traffic associated with ground-based military activities."
* In addition, she noted, degradation of biocrusts results in an increase in the amounts of atmospheric dust. Atmospheric dust is a dominant pollutant in populated desert areas.
* The two Department of Defense study sites that the project will focus on are Fort Bliss, on the border of Texas and New Mexico, and the Dugway Proving Ground in northwest Utah.
* The team will begin its project by growing biocrusts in laboratories, exposing them to increasing stressors such as light, heat and dryness in order to eventually transplant them into the study areas.
* Once transplanted, the biocrusts will be studied to evaluate their effectiveness at soil stabilization. The team also plans to begin a series of seeding trials to re-establish native plants in the area, the university reported.
* Barger hopes that her research can be used in the management of other federal lands, such as those managed by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service.
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