New greenhouses on campus

Two new greenhouses are now part of Portland State University’s landscape. These structures were erected during the summer of 2001. The greenhouses will provide a space for research and growing plants for campus landscaping.

As associate professor of Environmental Science and Resources, Dr. Mark Sytsma has focused his research on non-native and invasive aquatic plants, or wet weeds, that often present themselves as a nuisance to the rest of the submerged ecosystem.

The previous greenhouse on top of Science Building Two was too small for such work, and Sytsma had been pushing for an adequate space for over three years.

The two new greenhouses on campus, one of which will be extremely useful to Sytsma’s research in this area. In this facility, he will be able to research the effects of photosynthetic and growth rates of aquatic plants with varying temperatures and degrees of light. He will also experiment to find the most effective ways to cut back these weeds. This will tell him how these plants can be better controlled in lakes, where they tend to take over.

“There is a necessity for a greenhouse for this research,” Sytsma said.

Wet weeds also tend to take over the area and crowd out the other organisms. They cover the top of the water, which blocks light from reaching other plants. This changes the structure of the habitat, getting rid of much of the rich variety of organisms that inhabit a healthy environment.

Sytsma said that funding is difficult to find for this research, mostly because these weeds are “unseen”- they are under water and out of common view. However, he mentioned that most of the funding that this research does receive comes from the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Non-native plants are often introduced to a lake by boats and boat trailers, which carry organisms from one lake to another, sometimes to the detriment of these lakes. The aquarium business also plays a role in spreading invasive species. Pet shops try to find “exotic” types of plants to put in aquariums with fish; these plants must also be very hearty to survive aquarium conditions. Often, when a domestic aquarium “fails”, its owner dumps the remaining contents in an otherwise natural water system. The two most common aquatic non-native plants introduced in the lakes of this area are Eurasian water milfoil and Brazilian elodea.

The other greenhouse is to be used by Facilities on campus. These campus beautifiers will store plants as well as grow them from seed in their greenhouse. The stored plants can be kept in the greenhouse over the winter without freezing.

“The campus will save a lot of money by growing annuals ourselves, and before we had no space for growing from seed,” Landscaping Services Supervisor and horticulturist Melissa DeYoung said.