A Comparison of the Ecology and Successional Trajectories of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior Dune Ecosystems

Project Overview
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Project Abstract: 
The State of Michigan, with its Great Lakes, contains several pristine dune ecosystems. These ecosystems are unique because they are valuable examples of primary succession into a forested ecosystem. Primary succession in dune ecosystems can be variable, including factors such as the interactions between plant species, composition of available colonizer species, pre-existing geologic abiota that render autogenic soil formation unique, and local disturbances. The analysis of primary succession and differential development of ecosystems has used chronosequences as a means of understanding later-stage succession. While this has yielded useful insights, there are inherent assumptions made about model primary succession chronosequences and the ecosystems to which they are being applied. A detailed ecosystem profile, including the collecting of abiotic and biotic data at different dune ecosystems, could improve the understanding of how unique primary successional trajectories of dunes arise. This study examines the present communities at three Michigan dune ecosystems at Platte River (Lake Michigan), Wilderness State Park (Lake Michigan), and Grand Traverse Bay (Lake Superior), and assesses the similarities and differences between their environment, community structure, and successional trajectory. Additionally, given the availability of data of Wilderness State Park floral surveys and past successional studies, a temporal comparison of that site will be assesses. This project aims to: Construct ecosystem profiles for three dune ecosystems along the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, such that an understanding of how the structure and successional trajectory of these ecosystems are different. Understand what abiotic variables may be contributing to the expected differences, and how much of an impact, relative to each other, each variable contributes Compare floral community data of the Wilderness State Park site with available data measured in previous studies, such that a more temporal perspective of the succession of the ecosystem is understood. Assess the role of invasive species in altering native dune successional trajectories, as well as assess the reasons behind some dune ecosystems being more susceptible to invasion.
Investigator Info
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