Forest Dynamics

Tropical Lightning Effects on Forests

Lightning strikes are the most important cause of mortality in large tropical trees and are expected to increase under climate change scenarios. I am using five years of data on tree mortality from lightning strikes on Barro Colorado Island in Panama. We aim to identify interspecific differences in trees that make them more or less susceptible to lightning damage, which has implications for the future tree composition of tropical forests.

Collaborators: Steve Yanoviak, Evan Gora

Dimensions of Biodiversity Change

Biodiversity is believed to be declining at sites around the world due to climate change, land use change, species invasions, and other anthropogenic factors. But how is biodiversity measured? Using data on plant distributions in Wisconsin collected in the 1950s by John T. Curtis and students and resurveyed in the 2000s combined with functional trait data for most species, we examine whether species-based measures of biodiversity changes (such as species richness and diversity indices) tell the same story as functional and phylogenetic measures for the same sites.

Collaborators: Alison Paulson, Jared Beck, Rachel Toczydlowski, Don Waller, and others.

Diversity Drivers from Above and Below

Light availability and soil properties are well-known drivers of understory plant composition and diversity, but how do they interact? We use 361 plots spanning a one-hectare gradient from quartzite glade to mesic hardwood forest to test the relative influences of soil depth, canopy cover, and tree leafing phenology on understory herb diversity and composition.

Collaborator: Jared Beck