The effects of mycorrhizae on phosphorus mitigation and pollinator habitat restoration within riparian buffers on unceded land

Publication Year: 
Jessica Rubin (UVM) & Josef Görres (UVM)
  • Article covering study of mycorrhizae's effect of the ability of vegetation to lower legacy soil phosphorus and soil water phosphorus, and increase woody biomass phosphorus uptake
  • Study done in a mycophytoremediation project at Shelburne Farms in Chittenden County, VT
  • Found that mycorrhizal density was inversely related to some phosphorus variables

Agricultural pollution, especially phosphorus (P) can cause eutrophication of freshwater quality. Riparian buffers are best management practices (BMPs) which intercept agricultural pollution. However, they are frequently degraded by reduced biodiversity. P mitigation in riparian buffers can be enhanced through mycorrhizal inoculation and cyclical coppicing. We report on a myco-phytoremediation project that investigates mycorrhizae’s effect on vegetation’s ability to lower legacy soil P, soil water P, and increase woody biomass P uptake. It also aimed to restore pollinator habitat through planting a diverse, native plant palette (32 species), blooming from February to November. Planting and offering culturally relevant plant materials to the Abenaki contributes to their land rematriation process. The study was located on unceded Abenaki territory at Shelburne Farms, within 300 m of Lake Pitawbagw (Lake Champlain) which is impacted increasingly by P pollution from colonial and conventional agricultural practices. Along a drainage way three treatment plots were installed: buckthorn vegetation (OIV) left in place as the control, and two restored diverse multi-synusium plant communities, consisting of either uninoculated (RV) or inoculated with 19 mycorrhizal species (RVM). After 2 years, soil water soluble reactive P extracted from lysimeter samples was not affected by treatment but varied over time. However, water extractable SRP (WEP-SRP) and TP (WEP-TP) followed this trend RV > OIV > RVM which was inversely and linearly related to mycorrhizal density. Plants are best harvested in late summer when P concentrations are highest. Restoration science can flourish through reciprocally partnering with Original Peoples who hold expertise in ecological reconciliation.