Coweeta Field Plot Uprooted and snapped stems in the experimental gap project SLIP forest model

The environmental sciences have progressively found themselves thrust from their humble roots in natural history into the role of detecting, quantifying, and predicting the interactions between humankind and our natural environment. We face a future where there is clear and growing demand for quantitative ecological forecasts with accurate assessments of uncertainty at the local, national, and global level. One of the primary goals of our work is to produce ecological forecasts by combining innovative ecological models with cutting-edge statistical and computational techniques and integrating diverse sources of data across many spatial and temporal scales. Forecasting is not merely an exercise in modern information technology, but requires tackling a number of basic research questions. At the forefront of these is the need to go beyond studying individual sites in isolation in order to understand the generalities across ecological systems. Basic science questions are what ultimately that drive our research: how do species coexist?; what are the relative contributions of biotic interactions, abiotic factors, and disturbance in structuring ecosystems?; and to what extent are ecosystem dynamics predictable versus determined by individual history and chance events? We are interested in understanding the universal constraints on vegetation dynamics through the integration of cross-site studies and focused field campaigns with cutting-edge models and modern statistical techniques. Overall our research is focused on the interacting roles of environmental heterogeneity, disturbance, and climate change in structuring vegetation dynamics.

Current projects are split between those focused on climate change responses versus those on novel biofuel crops. Both share many of the same questions about carbon fluxes and impacts on ecosystems services and biodiversity, and both use many of the same tools. The longest running work in the lab has focused on forest dynamics in the eastern and central U.S. at the stand, landscape, and regional scales, while the newest project in the Alaskan tundra looks at vegetation-fire-climate feedbacks. In our biofuels work we look at the suitability of different woody and perennial grass biofuel crops, their vulnerability to climate variability, their impacts on carbon storage and the water cycle, and the potential land use/land cover changes of biofuel expansion. Past projects have also involved work in Costa Rica, Australia, and the Pacific Northwest.

News and recent publications

Matthes, JH, S Goring, JW Williams, MC Dietze. 2016 “Benchmarking historical CMIP5 plant functional types across the Upper Midwest and Northeastern United States” Journal of Geophysical Research – Biogeosciences. DOI: 10.1002/2015JG003175 pdf

Miller, AD, MC Dietze, EH DeLucia, KT Anderson-Teixeira. 2015. "Alteration of forest succession and carbon cycling under elevated CO2 "in press Global Change Biology 22 (1), 351-363 DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13077 pdf

Schlesinger et al. 2015. Forest biogeochemistry in response to drought. Global Change Biology 10.1111/gcb.13105 pdf

Hu et al. The Blazing Tundra? Climate Change, Fire-Regime Shifts, and Biogeochemical Consequences. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13(7): 369–377, doi:10.1890/150063 pdf

Medlyn et al. Using Ecosystem Experiments to Improve Vegetation Models: Lessons Learnt from the Free-Air CO2 Enrichment Model-Data Synthesis. Nature Climate Change 5:528-534 DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2621 pdf

Becknell et al. 2015. A macrosystems ecology approach to assessing the effects of changing management, climate, and disturbance on forest processes. Bioscience 65(3):263-274pdf

Padhy et al 2015 "Brown Dog: Leveraging Everything Towards Autocuration" IEEE Big Data Conference in review pdf

Viskari et al. 2015 Model-data assimilation of multiple phenological observations to constrain and forecast leaf area index. Ecological Applications 25(2): 546-558 pdf

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