April 28, 2004
Effect of Fires on Saltcedar Growth
The Effect of Bosque Fires on Saltcedar Growth
Rachel Clements, 14, Albuquerque, N.M.
Leah Crowder, 14, Albuquerque, N.M.
Finalists, Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge, 2003
Project background: Saltcedar trees are a non-native, invasive species that drink up to 300 gallons of water a day in the riverside forest known as the bosque in New Mexico. The trees' massive taproots also tend to interfere with the water table. A professor at the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program challenged Leah and Rachel to see if saltcedar trees grow better in the open or under the cottonwood canopy of the forest. A recent fire provided an opportunity to see if, after a summer of growth, there would be more saltcedars in the burned areas than in the unburned areas.
Tactics and results: The girls counted the number of saltcedars on either side of a firebreak. They divided areas on the burned and unburned sides into 10-meter by 10-meter plots and recorded the height, health, and relationship of the saltcedars to the cottonwoods.
Rachel and Leah found that there were more saltcedars in the burned areas than the unburned areas. Further studies are needed to see if this is because the cottonwood canopy inhibits saltcedar growth or because saltcedars thrive in areas cleared by fire.
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