Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Plants, Soils, and Climate

Committee Chair(s)

Janis L. Boettinger


Janis L. Boettinger


Jeanette M. Norton


Eugene W. Schupp


The Uinta Basin hookless cactus (Sclerocactus wetlandicus) is a threatened species native to Eastern Utah. The cactus is found in a landscape highly disturbed by non-renewable energy production. To understand the environmental conditions that support natural growth of this cactus, we asked what types of plants were present in the same areas as the cactus, and if the types of plants were different in environments that were disturbed. From our assessment, we determined that the types of plants present in disturbed areas were drastically different from those present in undisturbed locations. Areas previously used for energy production are dominated by non-native weedy species, thus differing from undisturbed habitats that contained a mix of species from weeds to long-lived shrubs and grasses both native and non-native. To help restore the natural presence of this threatened cactus in disturbed habitats as well as prevent future extinction, we developed and tested a protocol for cactus seed germination in the greenhouse and successfully produced seedlings. Additionally, an important factor contributing to the successful growth of this threatened cactus is the presence of helpful microorganisms, or fungi. Therefore, we determined which types of fungi are naturally present on the roots of the cactus in the wild. We plan to include these specific fungi in the soil used to grow the cactus seedlings to promote their growth and ultimately their survival in the wild. Our study indicates that although there is potential for successful reintroduction of the cacti to disturbed areas, these areas should first be reclaimed in a way that better resembles undisturbed habitats to increase the likelihood that the newly planted cacti will thrive.