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Aspen Conifer Forests

In western North America, aspen forest communities support high biodiversity and are important sources of water from melting snowpack for human use. However, changing environmental conditions are altering the function and composition of aspen forests. Long-term studies are being conducted that examine how facilitation and competition between aspen and conifer, changing fire regimes, climate change and animal browsing are altering aspen forests of western North America. We are also characterizing functional traits that confer tolerance to the wide spectrum of stresses that aspen experiences.

Visit our website on aspen ecology.

Desert Ecosystems

Fire is an emerging ecological threat in fragile desert systems of North America. Fires are becoming larger, more frequent and intense as a result of the introduction of invasive grasses. It is not well understood how desert organisms and communities respond to these changes in fire.

Our research examines the ecological factors that contribute to plant invasion and the spread of fire in deserts and how it impacts desert ecosystem function and stability. Long-term studies are underway to understand how invasive grass driven fires change desert ecosystems by altering biological interactions among plants, insects pollinators, ants and rodents. The goal is to better predict post-fire recovery potential of the biological community and identify management approaches that are most likely to prevent fire or aid in post-fire recovery.

See our Desert, Fire, Mammal and Plant Research (Desert-FMP) website.

Eastern Deciduous Forests

In the last 100 years the range and abundance of red maple has expanded significantly in forest of eastern North America, Norway maple has become invasive while the range and abundance of sugar maple has declined. We are conducting studies that examine environmental factors (soil acidification, ozone, drought, UV light, herbivory) and physiological traits that contribute to the differential success of these three closely related tree species.

California Grasslands

Annual grasslands are model ecosystems for understanding how plant ecosystems respond to climate change. Our research in California’s annual grasslands, examines how variation in the timing and magnitude of soil moisture, affects plant-microbe interactions that translate to changes in ecosystem function