The UCI Ecological Preserve offers unique opportunities to study local coastal sage scrub and grassland ecosystems a few steps from campus. This proximity makes it the perfect location for long-term research studies that create engaging opportunities in field data collection for undergraduates and accessible field sites for graduate studies.
International Drought Experiment: DroughtNet
Climate models predict increased variability in precipitation in the decades to come. The UCI Drought-Net Restoration experiment seeks to determine how increased frequency and severity of drought will affect Coastal Sage Scrub communities by subjecting plants to different water manipulations. This is part of an international set of drought experiments studying the impact of extreme drought on different ecosystems.
Will plants from warmer, drier, inland populations be better adapted to drought than plants from cooler, wetter, coastal areas? UCI’s experiment goes further than other drought studies to address this pressing restoration question. Seed of common plant species were collected from 4 coastal (mesic) and inland (xeric) source populations, and their survival and performance will be tracked over time.
Fighting Drought with Stormwater
This multi-campus research initiative looks compare land classes for stormwater infrastructure on five University of California campuses. Green infrastructure (natural vegetation) is a cost effective, resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts that also provides many community benefits. Green infrastructure reduces and treats stormwater at its source while delivering environmental, social, and economic benefits. One of the larger goals of this project is to quantify insect and plant diversity of green infrastructure, as well as to understand how insect and plant diversity differs from lawn, ornamental landscape areas and other natural, non-green infrastructure areas.
Clinal adaptation and adaptive plasticity in Artemisia californica
This project examines clinal variation in traits and performance for the shrub Artemisia californica. The study features five population of Artemisia Californica distributed over 700 km in south and central California—representing 70% of its range and 85% of the precipitation gradient. Plants within these populations were cloned and grown for three years in a treatment that approximate the precipitation regimes of the north and south margins. Researchers found that:
(1) northern population had a higher water use efficiency and lower growth rate than the southern species (2) the high-precipation treatment increased growth and flower production more for the southern population (3) clinal patterns in plant traits and plasticity are indicative of adaptation to both the mean and variability of environmental conditions.