UNC Plant Ecology Lab

Research

Navigate to:

Community Assembly, Niche, and Scale | Conservation and Restoration | The All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory
Ecoinformatics | Florisitcs, Taxonomy, and Biogeography  | Species Diversity and Biodiversity
Succession and Vegetation Dynamics | Vegetation Classification and Survey | Vegetation of the Southeastern U.S.

 

Community Assembly,

Niche, and Scale

Description:

For several decades, ecologists have explored how groups of organisms are distributed throughout space, the resources the organisms use and share, and the ecological processes that dictate this organization. Community composition depends on species’ niches and interpretations of diversity and processes within a community vary with scale.

Projects in the Lab:

Kyle Palmquist has examined the relationship of fire and community composition in the long leaf pine Savannahs of Coastal North and South Carolina

Peter Wilfahrt has manipulated local species pools to compare biotic interactions in experimental plots at Widener and Mason Farms.

Dennis Tarasi has compared exotic and native species richness in vegetated plots to assess the validity of the community saturation hypothesis in plant communities.

Back to Top

Conservation and Restoration

Description:

Conservation Biology lies at the intersection of multiple natural and social sciences. Members of PEL have directed research efforts in many different ecological systems, with a focus both on the preservation and maintenance of natural systems and the management of human-disturbed systems toward sustainable natural interactions.

Projects in the Lab:

Kyle Palmquist has evaluated best practices for fire regime management in the fire-dependent systems of Coastal Longleaf Pine communities.

Bianca Lopez has examined the impacts of urban development on stream temperature and vegetation as a proxy for impending climate change.

Lisa Jones has evaluated the best restoration practices to rehabilitate the Blackbrush shrubland system of the Mojave Desert.

Peter Wilfahrt has experimentally manipulated species compositions in small-scale plots to assess the impacts of exotic species in determining local species pools.

Back to Top

The All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory

Description:

The All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI), a project of Discover Life in America (DLIA), seeks to inventory the estimated 100,000 species of living organisms in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.The project will develop checklists, reports, maps, databases, and natural history profiles that describe the biology of this rich landscape to a wide audience.

Projects in the Lab:

Peter White actively continues work in Great Smoky Mountains, as have many of his recent graduate students.

Back to Top

Ecoinformatics

Peet-CVS-v9_Page_2

Description:

Ecoinformatics involves the proper collection, organization, and presentation of environmental data. In our current age of technological advances, much of this work involves the implementation of detailed and intricate databases. Members of PEL have been leaders in the efforts to develop and refine vegetation-specific databases, both locally and globally.

Projects in the Lab:

Bob Peet, Alan Weakley and Michael Lee are actively involved with many regional, national, and global projects in database development, including the Carolina Vegetation Survey, ESA’s VegBank National Database System, and the Ecoinformatics working group of the International Association of Vegetation Science.

Back to Top

Floristics, Taxonomy, and Biogeography

Description:

Proper identification of plant species has been a major focus of the natural sciences for centuries. As proper identifications are made and specimens are collected in local herbaria, this data can help develop insights into the range, distribution, and threats to many plant species and populations throughout the world.

Projects in the Lab:

Alan Weakley and Derick Poindexter have identified and named and new species of endemic piedmont wildflower, Marshallia legrandii. Their results were published in the journal Phytoneuron.

Kyle Palmquist, Sam Tessel, and Bob Peet have published a chapter of species richness patterns in understory vegetation of the Eastern U.S. forests, published in F.S. Gilliam & M.R. Roberts, M.R., eds. The herbaceous layer in forests of eastern North America, Chapter 10. Second edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013.

Karl Fetter has implemented morphometric and molecular analyses to discern the numerous varieties of Tulip Polar, Liridendron tulipifera, in the Southeastern United States.

Alan Weakley has recently co-authored the Flora of Virginia and continues work on his Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States.

Back to Top

Species Diversity and Biodiversity

Description:

Many ecological efforts focus on the preservation of biodiversity, the richness of life. From simple experimental studies changing community structures, to global efforts to identify the most diverse parts of the world, understanding the ecological processes that create, maintain, and alter biodiversity remains a key focus of many PEL research efforts.

Projects in the Lab:

Sam Tessel has investigated the composition and environmental factors associated with large-scale acidic coves in Southern Appalachian Mountain systems.

Kyle Palmquist has classified the vegetated communities of the species-rich longleaf pine systems of Coastal North and South Carolina.

Bianca Lopez has examined species richness patterns along urban streams to determine patterns of temperature and stream incision on vegetated communities.

Back to Top

Succession and Vegetation Dynamics

FMNF_7-926_3

Description:

Changes in vegetated communities can have effects that transcend the boundaries of the natural and human worlds, impacting every organism within the global community. The continued study of these ever-changing communities will provide new insights into our dynamic world and inform many environmental decision makers in future efforts.

Projects in the Lab:

Chris Payne and Bob Peet have re-sampled permanent vegetation plots in Duke Forest to evaluate the changes in biomass and resource use over multiple decades.

Peter Wilfahrt has manipulated several experimental sites to investigate the dynamics of plant establishment and persistence in local and regional contexts.

Back to Top

Vegetation Classification and Survey

Description:

An important component of understanding plant communities and their associated dynamics is a standardized effort to observe and catalog the systems of interest. PEL efforts in vegetation classification have yielded thousands of plots throughout the Southeastern United States, spanning over 25 years of work.

Bob Peet, Alan Weakley, and Peter White have facilitated classification and survey efforts in the Carolina Vegetation Survey over the last 25 years.

Michael Lee works closely with many ecological researchers to organize and manage many classification and database tools, throughout North Carolina and beyond.

Back to Top

Vegetation of the Southeastern U.S.

Plant Party
 

Description:

Through natural community sampling, thorough analyses of herbaria records, and collaborations with other leading plant ecologists, PEL members have helped significantly improve our understanding of the regional flora of the Southeastern U.S.

Projects in the Lab:

Bob Peet and many collaborators have developed and continue to supplement the Carolina Vegetation Survey, a systematic inventory of the numerous plant community types present throughout the Carolinas and the Southeastern United States.

Back to Top

UNC Digital Commons Project | Manage Website
Provided by the UNC Office of Arts and Sciences Information Services in collaboration with ibiblio.org