Plant Ecology and Global Change: Science Motivated by Conservation

Our Projects

Dynamics of mixed hardwood forests - long-term studies at Pepperwood Preserve

 In 2013, we established a network of long-term forest dynamics plots at Pepperwood preserve, spanning Douglas-fir, mixed hardwood, oak woodlands, and oak savannas. The project was primarily designed to examine community structure and dynamics across topographic gradients, as a framework for understanding potential impacts and responses to climate change. In 2017 and 2018, large portions of Pepperwood Preserve burned in wildfires, and we are focusing our current research on post-fire mortality and regeneration. We also survey understory herbaceous species each year in a subset of these plots. This is a rich dataset with over 165 species! We are currently analyzing community patterns across topography and examining the response of the herbaceous community to the 2017 Tubbs fire. 

Grassland community phenology at Pepperwood Preserve​

Rachael investigates the potential of variation in environmental conditions across topographic gradients to extend floral resource timing. she records flowering time of forb and grassland species across four successive spring growing seasons (2015-2018) on paired north and south aspects. she is interested in determining whether differences in flowering time due to topography yield complementarity in the flowering and fruiting of herbaceous species, with applications to grassland management.

Beta Diversity in the Western U.S

Using the US Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis data set, Kyle explores how climate and topography have influenced recent tree community change in the western US. Prior work in the Ackerly Lab has shown that tree communities in this region are often structured by topography, with warmer, south-facing hillslopes containing taxa that tend to live in warmer areas, and cooler, north-facing slopes containing more cool-associated taxa. In light of this evidence, He is investigating how hill slope and aspect, in interaction with the changing climate, have shaped growth, mortality, and recruitment rates in western US tree communities over the last 20 years.

CHI (California Heartbeat Initiative)

CHI is an innovative project combining drone surveys and on-the-ground environmental sensors to assess vegetation health and ecohydrology across a range of California ecosystems. The project is based at the UC Natural Reserve System, at the UC Office of the President, and is a collaboration of several research labs at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz. More information can be found here.

Oak Diversity and Physiology

Several projects in the Ackerly lab have explored the diversity of North American Oaks and their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Prahlad investigates oak genetics across California and their ability to adapt to a changing environment. This work seeks to understand the strategies oaks use to adapt to climate stressors. Post-Docs Dr. Skelton and Dr. Anderegg investigate North American Oak physiological traits to improve our understanding of tree mortality through a changing climate.  Xylem resistance is as an important determinant of resistance to drought, mortality thresholds, geographic distribution and productivity. Their work aims to understand xylem resistance to embolism in long-vesselled angiosperms. 

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