February 27 2013

12:00 LSB 2320

Travis Huxman
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine

Linking functional ecology and population / community dynamics in the Sonoran Desert


Global change requires plant ecologists to predict future states of biological diversity to aid the management of natural communities, introducing a number of significant challenges. One major challenge is considering how the many interacting features of biological systems, including ecophysiological processes, plant life histories, and species interactions, relate to performance in the face of a changing environment.
We have employed a functional trait approach to understand the individual, population and community dynamics of a number of systems in the Sonoran Desert. Our goal has been to take a comprehensive approach that connects physiological ecology and comparative biology to population and community dynamics, while emphasizing both ecological and evolutionary processes. This has led to a fairly robust understanding of past and contemporary dynamics to changes in climate for plant and ecosystem response. Our functional trait - life history trade-off framework has provided a mechanistic explanation to the recent warming, drying and climate variability that has driven a surprising shift in species composition in desert annuals. Our focus on ecohydrological partitioning by vegetation has allowed us to think about the resilience of carbon cycling in the protracted drought of the recent century. These types of comprehensive approaches may be especially needed now to predict the future of plant dynamics in a novel climate, as the non-stationarity of the contemporary climate constrains our use of simplistic statistical representations of past plant behavior in predicting the future, without understanding the mechanistic basis of change.















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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