Using soil nematodes as indicators of soil health in wet meadow rangelands
Grasslands store carbon, regulate water, recycle nutrients, and conserve biodiversity. In western Canada, seasonally flooded, wet meadow grasslands, also provide habitats for species at risk. Despite their importance to conservation, little is known about the effect of grazing on these ecosystems. This research will help understand how grazing effects plants, soils, and the ecosystem services provided by wet meadow grasslands. Specifically, this project will explore links between grazing, plants, and soil nematodes, small worm-like animals, that recycle carbon and nutrients in soils. Our research will test three questions: 1) Does grazing increase the abundance of grasses, sedges, and rushes in wet meadow grasslands; 2) How do changing plants affect the structure and composition of nematodes in wet meadow soils? 3) Can soil nematodes help monitor changes in carbon and nutrients in wet meadow grasslands? This research will focus on Lake Manitoba Plain Ecoregion and will small differences in soil, vegetation, and moisture to measure the effect that cattle have on plant and soil communities. Findings from this research will help with the sustainable management and conservation of wet meadow rangelands in Canada.