This summer in the month of August for my second summer in A row, I along with other peers and Dr. William Eaton went to Costa Rica to conduct soil science research to contribute to the restoration effort done at The Monteverde Institue. The research I carried out this summer is an assessment of how different forest restoration strategies in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve have affected the soil fungi most associated with the vegetation. Specifically, I am focusing on changes in the soil fungal communities of many known plant pathogenic fungi, the ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi that attach to plant roots and the arbuscular mycorrhizal (ARM) fungi that attach and embed deeper in the plant roots. These two groups are critical to enhancing vegetation growth but have been little studied in the tropics, including in Costa Rica. I will be determining if there are differences in these fungal group populations within the forest soils of 3-15 year restored sites in reserves by The Monteverde Insitute. The assumption is that if the vegetation community is changing, then there should be changes in these plant-associated fungal populations, and this should also be reflected in correlated changes in the soil organic carbon and soil biomass carbon within the different sites.
The overall goal of this research is to show how the carbon measurements and the fungal genera associated with the plant community have changed with the different restoration strategies. With these measurements, I hope to determine if these changes reflect benefits from the restoration activities, and at what age after restoration are the benefits able to be observed. To accomplish this goal I will be collecting soils from these different restoration sites and extracting total soil community DNA. With these results, I along with Dr. Eaton and peers hope to publish a paper in a scientific journal with our findings that would be beneficial to the restoration efforts done in the Cloud forest, but also in similar restoration sites around all tropical areas.