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First Results of Biochar Experiments at Blair Pond Meadow

In 2018 a group of Lesley University biology students, led by professor Amy Mertl and under a permit issued by the DCR, started experiments examining the effects of biochar use on the success of restoration plantings at Blair Pond Meadow.Biochar is a carbon-rich soil additive that provides nutrients for plants as well as habitat for beneficial fungus that grow in association with plant roots ('mycorrhizae').

Data collected by Professor Mertl (see table below) shows abundance of plants in both test plots, which at the present time are comparable. It was anticipated that biochar soils would have superior plant growth, but compost plots were similar to test plots. One reason might be that many of the seeds that were planted in spring need to experience winter conditions before they will germinate. The experiment has been ongoing since plantings in early May of 2018. Students will re-examine the plots next spring and also plant additional seeds.

You can see pictures of the plots at the start of the experiment here.
Sample Date: 7/30/18
Species Present
Biochar Plot 1 Biochar Plot 2 Compost only Plot 1 Compost only Plot 2
Persicaria spp. (Smartweed) Persicaria spp. (Smartweed) Verbena spp. (Blue Vervain) Verbena spp. (Blue Vervain)
Verbena spp. (Blue Vervain) Verbena spp. (Blue Vervain) Oxalis stricta (Yellow wood sorrel) Oxalis stricta (Yellow wood sorrel)
Solanum spp. (Nightshade) Solanum spp. (Nightshade) Solidago spp. (Goldenrod) Chamaecrista spp. (Partridge pea)
Solidago spp. (Goldenrod) Unknown #3 (tree seedling) Unknown #1 (small fuzzy leaves) Persicaria spp. (Smartweed)
Unknown #1 (small fuzzy leaves) Unknown #1 (small fuzzy leaves) Unknown #5 (flat weed) Euphorbia maculata (Spotted sandmat)
Unknown #2 (common grass) Unknown #4 (thin grass) Unknown #4 (thin grass) Unknown #1 (small fuzzy leaves)
Unknown #2 (common grass) Unknown #6 (striped grass)
Abundance
Species Biochar Plot 1 Biochar Plot 2 Compost only Plot 1 Compost only Plot 2
Verbena spp. (Blue Vervain?) 41 12 7 26
Unknown #1 (small fuzzy leaves) 27 30 29 25

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