The UCI Ecological Preserve offers unique opportunities to learn about local natural ecosystems, how best to steward them, and their influence on and responses to human activity. Below are examples of research, education, and restoration studies and projects involving UCI faculty, students and partner organizations.

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Research Projects:

Coastal Sage Scrub is a diverse plant community consisting of drought-resistant shrub species. Over the years, disturbance such as grazing and frequent wildfires, and invasive species have resulted in substantial declines in coastal sage scrub and a loss in species diversity. To restore these communities often requires reducing the abundance of invasive species and adding native plants collected from nearby areas. The UCI Drought-Net Restoration experiment attempts to determine how increasing frequency and severity of drought will affect Coastal Sage Scrub communities by subjecting plants to different water manipulations. To determine whether populations of species growing in warmer, inland areas are better adapted to drought than populations from cooler, coastal areas, seeds in this experiment will be sourced from both areas. As part of a larger network of drought experiments across the Southwest, this research hopes to address the following questions:

Drought Net: Habitat Restoration in a Changing Climate

1. How does rainfall influence the process and outcome of restoration?

2. How does seed source influence the ability of the restored community to tolerate drought?

3. How do our results of local plant community response to rainfall manipulation compare to other Drought Net study plots in the southwest?”

Researchers in the field

Fighting Drought with Stormwater

From Research to Practice This multi-campus research initiative looks compare land classes for stormwater infrastructure on five University of California campuses. Green infrastructure (naturally vegetation) is a cost effective, resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts that 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 understand how insect and plant diversity associated with it differs from lawn, ornamental landscape areas and other natural, non-green infrastructure areas.

Clinal adaptation and adaptive plasticity in Artemisia californica: implications for the response of a foundation species to predicted climate change

Artemisia californicaThis project examines the clinal variation in traits and performance—and plastic responses to environmental changes—for the shrub Artemisia californica. The study features five population of Artemisia Californica distribute over 700 km in south and central California—this represents 70% of its range and includes 85% of the precipitation gradient. Plants within these five populations were cloned and grown for three years in a treatment that approximate the precipitation regimes of the north and south margins. As a result, the 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.