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Effects of Biochar on Short Term Growth in Rocky Mountain Lodgepole Pine

However, the increased temperature and frequency of modern wildfires has led to decreased germination of lodgepole pines, and a combination of thick stands and recent widespread drought have weakened the immune systems of lodgepole pine, causing increased infestation of mountain pine beetle. As a result, there is a need for improved forest regeneration techniques in lodgepole pine forests. One method of improving revegetation could be through use of a biochar, a carbon-based substance that is produced when woody biomass is burned in a high temperature environment during a process referred to as pyrolysis. Numerous studies have found that biochar has generally positive impacts on soil health and plant productivity. However, more research is needed on its impact on native plants, especially lodgepole pine and other species with serotinous mechanisms. This study looks to address how different applications of biochar can be utilized in early greenhouse growth of lodgepole pine, the primary step of many revegetation efforts. In the Olin Hall Greenhouse, following a stratification process, we are currently comparing short term (6 months) growth of lodgepole pine seeds sown in potting soil, potting soil incorporated with biochar, and biochar on top of potting soil. Our procedure is based on protocols developed by the Colorado State Forest Service nursery, the Native Plant Network’s Propagation Protocol Database, U.S. Forest Service studies, and other academic studies. In our initial observations following germination, soil plots with biochar amendments are more successful in promoting early growth of lodgepole pine. If this holds true throughout the study, there would be valuable implications on revegetation efforts for an ecosystem increasingly challenged by a changing climate.