Sara G. Baer
- Director, Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research
- Senior Scientist
- Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
My primary research interest is the application of ecological theory to restoring ecosystems, particularly grassland. The Baer Lab studies above- and below-ground changes in structure and function during ecological restoration in response to environmental heterogeneity, interannual variability in climate, and intraspecific variation in population sources of dominant species. Much of our research has focused on agroecosystems restored to tallgrass prairie. We have found slow changes in total soil carbon pools on decadal scales, dependent on soil texture, but rapid recovery of easily decomposable organic matter pools that tie up available nitrogen as restoration proceeds. Different ecotypes of dominant species used in restoration can differentially affect species composition and traits with consequences for ecosystem processes. Some of these studies span multiple decades and demonstrate that restored grasslands are dynamic ecosystems both above and below ground, and our knowledge of these ecosystems remains in its infancy.