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Poster Abstracts

Poster # Abstract
5:00-7:00 pm Poster Session and Newtworking Cocktail Hour
Monday, September 25

Greenhouse gas production from soil amended with biochar in bioenergy cropping systems
Mica Keck(1) and Charlene Kelly(1,2)
(1) Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
(2) Division of Plant and Soil Sciences, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

Bioenergy crops offer a source of renewable energy that may produce less greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels. However, conversion of current landscapes into biofuel sites raises concerns about the environmental impact on surrounding ecosystems, as well as added competition of land space for food and feed crops. These concerns may be addressed by utilizing marginal lands to produce bioenergy crops, or lands are those that retain little agricultural value, making them useless for food crops, but ideal for short-rotation perennial crops, such as switchgrass and willow. Energy crops grown on marginal lands have the potential to provide cellulosic biomass without competition for food, as well as assist in fertility reclamation of these lands. Fertility issues on marginal land can be addressed using additions of biochar, a carbon-rich charcoal produced by the heating of biomass without oxygen. Biochar can improve nutrient retention, soil aggregation, soil density, and porosity and may aid in reducing soil GHG emissions. As a part of the Mid-Atlantic Sustainable Biomass (MASBio) consortium, 120 field-based experiment plots located on reclaimed mine and marginal agricultural sites were planted with either willow or switchgrass and treated with soil amendments of wood-based biochar, inorganic nitrogen fertilizer, or neither. GHG production (CO2, N2O, and CH4) will be assessed over the growing season for 2 years, measured from soil incubations and capture from a headspace of a contained vial. Gas concentration is determined via gas chromatography at Dallhousie University. We hypothesize that soils amended with wood-based biochar will produce fewer GHGs than those treated with fertilizer. Additional soil health indicators, including aggregate stability and nitrification, will also be measured. Results from this study will be used to help guide sustainability efforts in future biocrop selection and management practices.


Second year impacts of biochar and compost additions on tree growth in a stream restoration project
Kenzie Kohrs, Shawn Grushecky, Jamie Schuler
Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

Biochar has been used for soil remediation, carbon sequestration, and plant growth. Biochar feedstocks can range from wood- to animal-based. When selected for optimal use, biochar amendments have resulted in positive plant growth. The objective of this project was to determine the effects of biochar on tree growth in a stream restoration. Fourteen species of trees were randomly assigned to 10% biochar and compost (by volume), 50% biochar and compost (by volume) and control treatments. Over 1,800 trees were measured after the first year of maturity with follow measurements in early 2023 including mortality, height, and diameter growth. We concluded that there was no significance in relative height amongst treatments, likewise, there was not a significant difference in mortality rates amongst biochar treatments.


The Potential Role of Urban Forests in West Virginia: A Preliminary Exploration of Examples from Morgantown and Beckley
Rick Landenberger
West Virginia Land Trust and Department of Geology & Geography, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

Many urban areas in the US are growing rapidly, with approximately 90% of the U.S. population projected to live in cities by 2050. This change has tremendous implications for health and wellness, economic vitality, and for biodiversity and the related elements of sustainability that our health and wellness depend on. Given increasing recognition of the critical role of urban forests in a wide range of quality of life and economic sustainability measures, the protection of urban forests will gain importance as urban populations grow and undeveloped patches of forest are converted into residential, industrial, and commercial uses. Although urban forests are somewhat different than their rural counterparts, they share many of the benefits that larger blocks of rural forests share, including filtering and reducing storm water runoff, providing habitat for wildlife, improving air quality, sequestering carbon and cycling other critical nutrients, and providing recreational opportunities, among others. Unique benefits of urban forests include reducing summer temperatures and associated energy costs, screening and buffering visibility between commercial-industrial areas and neighborhoods, reducing industrial and other undesirable noises, and providing psychological relief and a break from the dominant commercial and industrial land uses that characterize modern cities. The West Virginia Land Trust (WVLT) is in the process of enlisting several of its recently acquired, unencumbered urban forested tracts into carbon markets, including a 36-acre tract in Morgantown and a 670-acre tract in Beckley. These urban forests will provide recreational benefits for which the WVLT will not be compensated but will also provide funding to help the organization continue to protect and manage them in perpetuity, costs that are typically born by the organization and supported by donations and other time-consuming and staff-intensive fund-raising mechanisms. The economic returns from urban forest carbon sequestration vary in the same way that rural blocks of forest land do – species composition, age, stocking density, growth potential and other factors are considered when determining credits, but urban forests provide additional economic returns related to ecosystem services beyond their ability to sequester carbon. These include the economic benefits derived from urban runoff reduction, air quality improvement, and energy savings. The funding generated from these benefits can cover some of the management costs required for sustainable management of urban forestland, saving the WVLT precious funding that can be used to protect more forestland and improve the quality of life in both urban and rural areas across the state.


Grow Fast, Die Young: How Early Stand Dynamics May Have Contributed to a Rare Chestnut Oak Decline Event
Cameron Dow(1), Michael Jenkins(2), Michael Saunders(2), James Jacobs(3)
(1) Department of Biology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
(2) Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
(3) Eastern Region State and Private Forestry, USDA Forest Service, St. Paul, MN

Oak (Quercus) species are a major component of eastern US forests, though recent declines in regeneration and frequent mortality events have raised concerns about the future health of this important genera. A mortality event of Chestnut oak (Q. prinus) across southern Indiana was observed beginning in 2016. While there have been many well-documented episodes of oak mortality in the past, episodes affecting chestnut oak are exceedingly rare, presumably due to the same drought tolerance that allows them to dominate on particularly xeric slopes and ridgetops. Using a combination of flyover mapping, stand surveys, and tree ring chronologies, we found that dry summers during 2005 and 2007 weakened vulnerable trees, allowing the exceptional drought in 2012 to incite decline and mortality. Greater basal area increment prior to growth decline, along with a higher probability of decline on mesic north and northeastern facing slopes, suggest that vulnerable individuals may have been those that preferentially allocated carbon into above ground growth instead of developing drought-resilient root systems. Future work should seek to disentangle the effects of stand dynamics during tree establishment, carbon allocation within individual trees, and anticipated changes in precipitation patterns due to climate change on tree mortality.


Spatial Distribution of Forest Industries and Carbon Stocks in South Carolina: Optimized Hot-Spot Analysis
Kavi Raj Awasthi, Sanjeev Sharma, Nilesh Timilsina, Puskar Khanal, Patrick Hiesl
Department of Forestry & Environmental Conservation, Clemson University, Clemson, SC

Joint Production of forest resources in highly valuable and productive forests like South Carolina (SC) may be a tradeoff. Identifying, prioritizing, and managing regions for timber production and carbon sequestration is critical to optimum returns on production and services. This study employs optimized hotspot analysis (OHA) to identify the aboveground carbon and timber production hotspots for 2019. Moreover, the distribution of forest product manufacturers (FPMs) and factors - socioeconomic and forest volume - driving such distribution are analyzed using negative binomial regression. We used publicly available county-level data on aboveground carbon and timber from Timber Product Output (TPO)/FIA and FPMs location from the South Carolina forestry commission (SCFC). Near-city counties such as Dorchester and Laurens are significant hotspots (at 95% level) for primary FPMs, while surrounding counties are the hotspots of secondary FPMs. Additionally, we observed overlapping in the hotspots of coastal counties such as Berkeley and Georgetown for merchantable volume, removals, and mill production. Dorchester is a significant hotspot (z >1.96) for timber production and carbon sequestration, while Berkeley and Georgetown are significant (z > 1.96) in terms of production but not in terms of aboveground carbon. Population and road networks are the significant factors (95% level) of FPMs. The concentration of FPMs around high-population areas shows a localized pattern of clustering around city areas such as Greenville and Charleston. Increasing timber production in the carbon hotspots may reduce the optimum benefits. Prioritizing carbon cold spots may be considered to enhance joint production.


Open Educational Resources in Forestry: Fast Facts for Faculty
Terra Rogerson
Evansdale Library, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

This poster will outline the complicated world of Open Access resources for those working in the Forestry field, who may not have access to subscription scholarly resources. From creating and using Open Educational Resources in University classes or professional careers to publishing their own work in Open Access journals, the poster will break down the different methods and useful tips. Some concepts that will be highlighted are: 

  • Explain what Open Access is, including the difference between Open Access and Open Educational Resources. 
  • Show examples of FREE library guides housing readily available Open Access materials. 
  • Share Open Access success stories that can inspire others to delve into the very important world of providing low-cost educational materials to students. 
  • Outline institutional Open Access memberships that faculty can use to publish their own work, as well as use for their classes. 
  • Showcase the WVU institutional repository. 
As we move toward breaking the lockdown on scholarly materials traditional publishing still has, it is imperative that libraries get the word out to powerful and vocal allies to create any real change!


Examining the impacts of long-term forest managment on soil carbon stocks
Dominick Cifelli(1), Brooke Eastman(2), Ben Rau(3), Jessica Burke(1), Edward Brzostek(1)
(1) Department of Biology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
(2) Division of Forestry, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
(3) Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Parsons, WV

Forest carbon credit markets aim to enhance carbon storage in woody biomass through sustainable forest management, yet they often neglect impacts on below-ground soil carbon. Forest soils hold twice the carbon of vegetation, and uncertainties in management effects on soil carbon may outweigh vegetation gains. Connecting management to soil carbon dynamics is challenging due to decadal-scale responses of bulk SOC stocks and SOC fractions to disturbances (i.e., harvesting or burning events). However, The Fernow Experimental Forest (FEF) offers a unique opportunity to assess long-term management impacts on SOC through various harvesting and burning experiments. Therefore, our objective was to evaluate how bulk soil carbon stocks and the form of soil carbon stabilization responds to forest management. Given the potential for repeated disturbances to prime soil carbon losses, we hypothesized that management strategies with more frequent disturbances will have lower bulk soil carbon compared to those with less frequent or unrepeated disturbances. To do this, we sampled soils from three harvesting methods: commercial clearcut harvesting, diameter-limit harvesting, and single tree species harvest. Additionally, we sampled a controlled burn site that aimed to promote oak regeneration. Our preliminary analysis found significant % soil carbon differences among sites (ANOVA, p < 0.005). The controlled burn site had the highest soil % C, followed closely by the control. While the most disturbed, diameter-limit site showed the lowest % C. These findings support our hypothesis that frequent disturbances reduce bulk soil carbon and suggest that improved forest management offset projects should also account for soil C losses in their credit estimations. Moving forward, we will scale our measurements to the ecosystem level using bulk-density measurements, as well as explore how different management strategies influence the balance between stable soil carbon and vulnerable carbon prone to loss.


Ecosystem Analysis of Glenville State University’s Campus Trees
Corey Foster(1), Rico Gazal(1), Elizabeth Moss(2)
((1) Land Resources Department, Glenville State University, Glenville, WV
(2) West Virginia State University Extension, Dunbar, WV

The assessment of the structure, function, and value of Glenville’s urban campus forest can reveal the benefits provided by each tree. By collecting field inventory data on 162 trees on the 17.74-acre campus, i-Tree Eco was able to calculate the urban campus forest benefits. The individual tree benefits can be combined to determine the amount of pollution removed in pounds per year, carbon storage in tons, oxygen production in tons per year, avoided water runoff in cubic feet per year, building energy savings in dollars per year, carbon avoided in tons per year, potential impacts from pests, and the overall replacement cost of the trees in dollars. Monetary values can be placed on almost all these beneficial values as well. It is estimated that the campus trees remove 190 pounds of air pollution per year with an associated value of $512. The trees help to reduce surface runoff by intercepting an estimated 10.3 thousand cubic feet a year of precipitation with an associated value of $690. They are estimated to reduce energy-related costs of buildings on campus by $506 annually. The trees also provide an additional $225 in value by reducing the amount of carbon released by fossil-fuel based power plants (a reduction of 1.32 tons of carbon emissions). The gross sequestration of the trees is about 1.561 tons of carbon per year with an associated value of $266. These trees are estimated to produce 4.163 tons of oxygen per year. The overall replacement value of the trees is $611,000. The total annual functional value of the trees saves Glenville State University $2,195 a year. Knowing the composition, tree location, size and health, as well as proximity to buildings, and more, this research provides the answers to how critical the trees on Glenville State University’s main campus really are.


WV Forest Landowners’ Perceptions of Forest Carbon Offset Programs
Jordan E. Stewart, Kathryn Arano Gazal
Division of Forestry, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

Several carbon offset programs have been made available to West Virginia (WV) forest landowners that allow them to manage their forests to mitigate climate change while providing an opportunity to earn extra income through carbon credits. While this market has grown rapidly, accessibility issues remain. This study aims to examine WV forest landowners’ awareness and perceptions of forest carbon offset programs. The study utilized an online structured questionnaire to survey forest landowners currently enrolled in WV’s Managed Timberland Program (MTL). Results showed that 87% of respondents find it very important to keep their land forested and 43% think that carbon offset programs will help keep their land forested. However, majority (57%) have no knowledge of carbon offset programs with a higher percentage (62%) not understanding the credit generation process. Less than one percent of the participants are currently enrolled in a carbon offset program. Landowners perceived early withdrawal penalty, legislative, and price uncertainties as the top barriers to participation in these programs. Respondents were also presented with nine hypothetical carbon offset programs varying in time commitment, harvest allowance, revenue, and early withdrawal penalties. Forest landowners would most likely enroll in a program with shorter time commitments (e.g., 1-5 years), higher revenue (e.g., $30/acre/year), no early withdrawal penalty, and no harvest restrictions. Results from this study can be used in evaluating existing carbon market programs and provide inputs to carbon policy initiatives to reduce barriers to landowner participation.


Carbon Sequestration and Crediting Feasibility Utilizing C4 Plants on Abandoned Mine Lands in West Virginia
Jacob Morris, Rachel Spirnak
West Virginia Water Research Institute, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

In West Virginia, the reclamation of Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) is an environmental concern, with around 200,000 acres of underutilized areas offering potential for substantial soil-based carbon sequestration, which is the largest terrestrial carbon pool surpassing atmospheric carbon reservoirs. This study explores the viability of utilizing C4 plants and natural Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) processes, like regenerative farming, to enhance AML carbon sequestration. The focus extends beyond AML renewal to the emerging carbon crediting market, providing landowners with incentives for adopting sequestration practices. To accurately estimate Soil carbon stocks, an appropriate sample design is needed as well as a proper selection of soil depth. This study involved randomly sampling 8 plots and taking a 144 square inch sample from each plot. The samples were dug up with a backhoe and shovels, separated into roots and soil and sent off to a soil lab to be tested using the Walkley black and loss on ignition method and are being compared to a control sample of barren AML soil. The first round of sampling took place at the beginning of the growing season in May and the final round of sampling is scheduled to take place mid-September —yielding data for statewide extrapolation through spatial analysis. Independent third-party verification lends credibility to the findings, where the credits can then be sold to those that produce excessive amounts of CO2 who need or want to offset their emissions. This study will analyze the effects of using AML for carbon sequestration and crediting to create new post mining economic benefits in the state of West Virginia.


Investigating the impact of elevated soil N availability and mycorrhizal association on fungal necromass decomposition dynamics
Hannah DeHetre, Edward Brzostek
Department of Biology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

Nitrogen (N) deposition to Eastern US temperate forests has enhanced soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks; however, as N deposition is declining across the region, it is critical to understand the extent to which stable SOC pools respond to variability in N inputs. While previous research has suggested that this N-induced increase in SOC results from an inhibition of microbial decomposition of plant-derived soil organic matter; the significant contribution of fungal necromass to SOC stocks in temperate forests suggests that the increased SOC stock under elevated N may not only be due to the reduced decomposition of plant-derived soil organic matter but may also reflect declines in the decomposition of fungal necromass. Moreover, mycorrhizal association may control the response of fungal necromass decomposition due to known differences between arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) and ectomycorrhizal (ECM) trees in the dominance of fungi over bacteria and their contrasting responses to elevated N at the ecosystem level. Thus, the objective of this study is to quantify the contribution of fungal necromass to SOC pools at Fernow Experimental Forest, in an experiment that received N fertilization from 1989-2019. To meet this objective, I will follow the fate of 13C labelled fungal necromass in soil ingrowth cores in each experiment. I hypothesize that 1) in plots that received N fertilization, the proportion of 13C labeled fungal necromass transfer to mineral-associated organic matter (MAOM): particulate-organic matter (POM) is lower across both mycorrhizal associations, 2) the proportion of 13C labeled fungal necromass transfer to MAOM:POM is lower in ECM than AM stands, when compared to the reference sites, and 3) the difference in the proportion of 13C labeled fungal necromass transfer to MAOM:POM will be greater between the control and ongoing fertilization plots than between control and recovering plots. After a full growing season, I will harvest the ingrowth cores and in addition to fractionating the soil into MAOM and POM by particle size and density. To determine the proportion of labelled fungal necromass incorporated into each SOC pool, the MAOM and POM samples will be analyzed for 13C recovery. Collectively, the results of my research will enhance our conceptual understanding of the degree to which N-induced increases in SOC will persist or be lost as N deposition continues to decline across the region.


The recovery of plant-microbial interactions from long-term nitrogen fertilization differs by mycorrhizal type in Central Appalachian forests
Emel Kangi(1), Joanna Ridgeway(2), Joseph Carrara(3), Edward Brzostek(1)
(1) Department of Biology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
(2) Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
(3) USDA Agricultural Research Service, Eastern Regional Research Center, Wyndmoor, PA

In the temperate forests of the Eastern US, nitrogen (N) fertilization experiments and observations across N deposition gradients show that enhanced N availability leads to increases in soil carbon (C). At the Fernow Experimental Forest in WV, thirty years of N fertilization led to increases in soil C due to a decline in belowground C allocation by trees to rhizosphere microbes and subsequent reduction in microbial decomposition. The strength of this response varied by mycorrhizal association. Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) trees preferentially reduced C allocation to fine roots, whereas ectomycorrhizal (ECM) trees primarily decreased C allocation to mycorrhizae. Moreover, the declines in microbial decomposition were greater in ECM soils than AM soils. Given that N deposition is declining and AM trees are becoming more dominant in the Eastern US, examining whether these patterns persist, return to their unfertilized state, or reach a new steady state is critical to determining the fate of N-induced soil C gains. To examine differences between the trajectories of AM and ECM plots in their recovery from N fertilization, we measured the changes to belowground C allocation and microbial decomposition in the years following the cessation of fertilization at the Fernow in 2019. We measured the recovery of fine root biomass, mycorrhizal colonization rate, and soil enzyme activities as a proxy for the shifts in belowground C allocation and the resulting changes in microbial decomposition and soil C pools. In addition, to test the persistence of the soil C in the fertilized and the reference watershed, we measured soil respiration at three different temperatures with and without the addition of artificial root exudates over 12 weeks. We found that while the overall recovery was slow in the fertilized watershed, the trajectory of recovery was different between AM and ECM dominated plots. Soil respiration in the fertilized watershed remained suppressed three years after fertilization. However, mycorrhizal colonization only remained suppressed in the AM dominated plots, while the soil enzyme activities in ECM dominated plots recovered slower. Enzymes that mobilized N from fungal necromass remained suppressed in both AM and ECM plots, likely reflecting a persistent decline in the importance of fungi to microbial community composition. Collectively, these results suggest that increasing temperatures and the return of plant-microbe relations may trigger great losses to N-induced soil C gains.


Comparative Study of Forecasting Models for Estimating Green House Gas Emission (GHGs)
Syeda Nyma Ferdous(1), Xin Li(2), Jaynedra Ahire(3), Richard Bergman(3)
(1) Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
(2) Department of Computer Science, University at Albany – SUNY, Albany, NY
(3) Forest Products Laboratory, USDA, Madison, WI

The study of forecasting models for estimating Green House Gas Emissions (GHGs) is gaining attention from researchers as the studied results can be utilized for addressing climate change. The objective of this work is to analyze different statistical, machine learning, and deep learning model performances for estimating Carbon Flux (CO2flux), one of the most prominent green hosue gas (GHGs) for estimating GHG emission. The dataset is generated using the popular biogeochemical model, Daycent. Statistical analysis of the studied models proves that forecasting models can be an excellent alternative choice compared to empirical and biogeochemical models in terms of accuracy and time complexity.


A Comparison of the Efficacy of Portable Moisture Probes Used in Wildlife Field Studies
Jami Baker(1), Donald Brown(1,2), Shawn Grushecky(1), Sheldon Owen(1), John Edwards(1)
(1) West Virginia University, School of Natural Resources, Morgantown, WV
(2) U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station, Parsons, WV

Capacitance and TDR sensors are commonly utilized in wildlife field studies to estimate soil moisture. Though both sensor types perform estimations through electromagnetic techniques, estimations may vary due to differences in how these sensors operate, dielectric dispersion, and the environmental conditions in which these tools are used. Dielectric dispersion is of particular concern in the Ernest series soils, which are largely present in West Virginia. Given these complexities, there exists a need to assess the accuracy of both TDR and capacitance probes against an established standard, such as gravimetric estimation of soil moisture. After a saturating rain (≥20mm), soils were sampled to reflect different levels of soil moisture. Sampling occurred in the following time series: ≤36 hours post-rainfall to reflect saturated conditions, 72-96 hours for intermediate, and 120-140 hours for dry. 63 samples were collected at each stage in the time series. Soil cores were collected to a depth of 10cm, stored in sealed containers, and refrigerated. Refrigerated soils were warmed to room temperature, homogenized, then tested for soil moisture with each probe. Samples were then weighed and dried using gravimetric methods.


The Benefits of Trees on the UAM Campus: Carbon Storage and Air Pollutants Removal
Sagar Godar Chhetri, Ana Gutierrez
Arkansas Center for Forest Business, University of Arkansas at Monticello, Monticello, AR

Green spaces in colleges and universities not only provide aesthetic beauty but also play a crucial role in managing urban ecosystems and providing several environmental benefits. Several universities have conducted a study to estimate the monetary valuation of the environmental benefits of their green spaces around the campus premises. However, so far not a single study has been done in Arkansas. The study aimed to assess the importance of UAM’s green space in the monetary term, which helps to create awareness among the public for promoting healthy urban forest management. Using i-Tree Canopy Tool, developed by a cooperative of public-private partnership, is a software tool for quantifying the environmental benefits provided by trees. We created 1,000 random points for each of the four properties owned by the university. Altogether, UAM owns approximately 1662 acres of land. Results show that the properties were dominated by Trees/Shrubs (67.9%) and followed by Grass/Herbaceous cover type (21.1%), Soil/Bare ground (5.3%), Road (2.1%), Buildings (1.9%), Water (0.8%) and Others (0.9%). The study found that trees on the UAM property stored over 44 thousand tons of carbon which has a value of $6.6 million. Each year, more than 5 thousand tons of air pollutants are removed from the atmosphere, sequester almost 6 thousand tons of carbon dioxide, and avoid water runoff of more than 9 thousand gallons which is equivalent to over half a million dollars in benefits to the community.


Beyond forest management with Wood Harvesting and Storage (Wood Vault): A low cost and easily scalable way to remove atmospheric CO2 to fight climate change
Ning Zeng(1), Al Steele(2), David Hollinger(3)
(1) Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
(2) State & Private Forestry, US Forest Service, Morgantown, WV (retired)
(3) USDA Northeast Climate Hub, US Forest Service, Durham, NH