Disturbance affects biodiversity, abundance, and ecological patterns

A better understanding of various disturbance types and quantitative comparisons of their effects over multiple scales is required for both species-level and landscape-scale conservation efforts, however, few quantitative syntheses of cross-system comparisons of disturbance effects exist. In my research, I use a number of study systems with known histories of disturbance to quantitatively compare different disturbance types and their effects on macroecological metrics such as rarity, diversity, and other measures of community structure.

Disturbance macroecology

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Macroecological theory

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Above: The relationship between the Maximum Entropy Theory of Ecology’s Lagrange multipliers lambda1, lambda2, and lambdaPi, and the ecological state variables in the mathematical constraints that produce them (from Brummer and Newman, 2019).

Landscape complexity

Above: Schematic relationship between entropy and complexity (from Newman, Kennedy, Falk, and McKenzie, 2019).

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Ecological interaction networks

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Changing wildfire regimes

I am interested in how disturbance regimes are changing, and what that means for biodiversity.

California chaparral

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French Polynesia

French Polynesia is a group of islands in the south Pacific that have been inhabited by Polynesians for over a thousand years. The low-elevation forests are heavily modified and now contain invasive species from the period of European colonization and modern global trade. In a study of low elevation forests of the island of Mo’orea, we compared the effects of wildfires on the structure of plant communities.

Above: Non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) plot showing differences in plant community composition between transects from each site. Points that are closer together have a higher degree of similarity. Each point represents a single transect; burned area data are represented in red, and comparison plot data are represented in black. Post-fire areas have larger and more overlapping ranges in this parameter space than do comparison areas.