We’re happy to welcome Marko J Spasojevic, (University of California Riverside, USA) to the board. Marko is community ecologist working at the interface of ecology, biogeography, and conservation. His broad goal is to understand the mechanisms that influence patterns of biodiversity, and then to use that understanding to address environmental issues. His research combines large-scale observational studies across biogeographic regions, field experiments, functional and phylogenetic approaches, and advanced statistics and modeling to address environmental issues and to explore fundamental questions in ecology
We asked Marko to tell us about his current research and select some papers from the journal to recommend.
My lab is currently focused on three general areas of research 1) Forest dynamics in mixed Oak-Conifer forest; 2) Altered precipitation regimes; and 3) Alpine biodiversity.
My lab is currently in the process of establishing a new 20ha forest dynamics plot on Mt. San Jacinto CA that will joining the Smithsonian’s ForestGEO network (a network of 66 forest plots globally). We are excited to add our plot to the global studies of forest biodiversity but are also very interested in local forest dynamics. In this forest we are seeing high mortality of conifers (Pines, Cedars, Firs) suggesting that this forest may transition to a Oak dominated system. Our goal is to track these long-term dynamics for the next 20+ years while also exploring basic questions about local species interactions and community assembly. This project is in collaboration with Jeff Diez.
Global change is altering precipitation regimes globally. Locally our research site at the Deep Canyon UC Reserve is predicted to see a shift toward more monsoonal precipitation. To examine the effects of this change to the precipitation patterns Darrel Jenerette, Pete Homyak and I have established an large scale precipitation experiment in a Pinyon-Juniper woodland. We have just finished setting up the experiment and are will be examining how biodiversity and ecosystem function differ among 1) ambient precipitation 2) only summer precipitation, 3) only winter precipitation, 4) ambient winter and double summer precipitation, and 5) ambient summer and double winter precipitation.
Lastly, I am continuing my work on alpine biodiversity and community assembly that I started as a graduate student. This work is being conducted at the Niwot Ridge LTER. My lab currently has several research initiatives in the alpine. I am currently working with Loralee Larios to better understand how facilitation influence species coexistence. Jared Anderson-Huxley (graduate student in my lab) is exploring how the mechanisms underlying the biodiversity-ecosystem function relationship change (or don’t!) over time and how patterns of functional and phylogenetic similarity influence species interactions. Lastly, as part of the LTER, the other LTER PIs and I are examining how accelerated snow melt is influencing biodiversity and ecosystem functioning across the alpine landscape.
One recent Functional Ecology papers that I enjoyed was Klimesova et al. Belowground plant functional ecology: Towards an integrated perspective. While trait-based ecology has made many advances in the last few years, belowground traits are still largely ignored. Here Klimesova et al. propose a comprehensive approach designed for belowground plant ecology which considers different plant organs (e.g., roots, rhizomes, tubers, bulbs) and functions (e.g., resource absorption, space occupancy, storage) simultaneously. This approach has great potential to provide a better understanding of how functional traits differ among species and what these differences mean for biodiversity and ecosystem function. (Jitka Klimesova was also interviewed about this paper for the blog.)
I am excited to join the team at Functional Ecology and hope to contribute to the continued success of this excellent journal.