Main Interests

Spatial and temporal pattern of plant communities
Structural diversity and landscape heterogeneity
Forest edges, fragmentation and conservation
Forest-tundra ecotone and the forest-coastal barrens ecotone
Structural development and old-growth forests
Effects of climate change on northern plant communities

Research Sites Location


Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of forested wetlands across Atlantic Canada

Forested wetlands are an integral but understudied part of the broad landscape of the Atlantic provinces. This project takes a multifaceted approach to increasing knowledge about forested wetlands across the Atlantic provinces and increasing capacity for conservation of this habitat and its biodiversity under threat from various human impacts. The purpose of this project is to bring together existing knowledge, generate new knowledge and synthesize information to better understand the ecology of forested wetlands across Atlantic Canada, including their variety and sensitivity to different anthropogenic changes. This knowledge will provide a framework for reducing impacts of land use and climate change on the biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of forested wetlands. We are assessing spatial and temporal dynamics of forested wetlands, developing a characterization of different types of forested wetlands (e.g., woodland peatlands, coniferous and deciduous treed swamps, floodplain swamps, alder swamps and other shrub swamps), assessing plant diversity including species of interest and comparing ecosystem processes among different types.

For more information see Forested Wetlands Project.

Structural diversity across transitions in heterogeneous landscapes

Transitions or boundaries between adjacent plant communities are important features of landscapes that might harbour greater diversity. Natural forest edges are less studied than those created by human activity but are more complex. Researchers have been working towards developing a theory of transitions, but many elements are still missing including a model that can predict patterns of vegetation across different types of edges as well as an understanding of edges within forested landscapes. I use an approach in my research which combines a focus on vegetation across natural forest edges with a more extensive exploration of vegetation patterns across the landscape. I pursue new methods including measuring structural diversity which combines the number and abundance of different structural elements (trees, dead trees, logs) and types of vegetation (tall shrubs, moss, lichens). I expect transitions to have the highest structural diversity on the landscape because they: 1) contain structural elements from both communities, 2) experience more tree mortality from disturbance such as flooding at lake edges and burning at fire edges, and 3) are influenced by increased light and wind at edges which result in changes in structure (more logs and saplings as trees regenerate). Variation in structural diversity across landscapes could affect patterns of fire, animal movement and habitat availability for smaller organisms. My long term objectives are: A) to predict patterns of vegetation across different types of edges in different forests; and B) to determine patterns of structural diversity across transitions in forested landscapes. Estimating and predicting transition widths is important for understanding effects of different management activities for conservation and for predicting effects of climate change. Structural diversity has the potential to become an important tool to facilitate comparisons among landscapes with different species, particularly in Canada where plant species diversity is generally low. Mapping landscape patterns of structural diversity would be helpful for assessing fuel availability for fire management and habitat availability for conservation. This knowledge will greatly advance the field of landscape ecology which currently lacks specific information on natural edges and will provide a greater understanding of landscape patterns and processes in its forests, especially as it relates to sustainable forest management and climate change.

PPS Arctic Canada – An International Polar Year Project

The International Polar Year (2007 – 2009) was a program of intensive science, research and education focused on the polar regions. PPS Arctic Canada is the Canadian component of an interdisciplinary research program on the causes and consequences of change of the forest-tundra ecotone. The arctic treeline, a prominent biogeographical boundaries, may be shifting due to climate change. Our objectives were: I) to model temporal and spatial treeline dynamics; II) to assess the impact of climate change on processes at treeline; III) to determine ecosystem services of the ecotone; and IV) to develop conceptual models of the relationship of environmental change and human health. We conducted field research at many northern sites and applied remote sensing data to investigate the forest tundra ecotone at different scales. Our multidisciplinary research team collected extensive quantitative, qualitative and anecdotal data on change across treeline. Although field work is complete, honours students are welcome to analyze data from this project for their honours theses.