We study the consequences of broad scale environmental change on plant populations and communities over long time periods and at regional scales.
The threats to biodiversity posed by changing land-use, climate, and invasive species (and the interactions between these factors!) put ecologists in a difficult spot: we want our science to usefully capture the complexity of global change ecology, and even to make useful predictions for the future. However, our knowledge of the character of population, community, and ecosystem change is limited, as are the tools we have for pushing this knowledge forward.
Our approach to this conundrum is to use a suite of tools that highlight robust signals in records of long term plant community change while continuing to recognize the uncertainty and complexity in ecological systems:
- We gather empirical data about how plant populations and communities have changed over long time frames and broad areas in the past (which allows us to measure ecological change at the relevant scale for addressing global environmental change).
- We explore these data with statistical models designed to reflect the uncertainty in our data and in our understanding of the processes driving biotic change.
- We develop tools for managers and policymakers that provide a way forward without oversimplifying the challenges we face.