Global Change Community Ecology Functional Traits Biogeochemistry
Community Responses to Climate Change: How communities will respond to climate change and is a central question of my research. In recent work, I examined the responses of biological soil crusts and vegetation communities to experimental climate change in a desert ecosystem of the Colorado Plateau. This work revealed a strong, negative impact of warming temperatures on biocrusts and some vascular plants. For a recent examples of this work see Ferrenberg et al. 2015, PNAS; Ferrenberg et al. 2016, PeerJ.
Community Structure and Ecosystem Functioning: How communities of similar organisms, but with differing structure affect ecosystem functioning is a growing focus of my research. In recent studies, I have used global change related disturbances ranging from wildfires, tree death, and rapid climate change to test predictions regarding processes governing the assembly and structure of communities of soil microbes, ground-dwelling arthropods, and biocrusts. My ongoing work focuses on forecasting how changes in community structure will affect ecosystem functioning. For recent examples see Ferrenberg et al. 2013, ISME J; Ferrenberg et al. 2014, Frontiers in Microbiology; Rutherford et al. 2017, Scientific Reports.
Functional Traits and Susceptibility to Global Change: The causes and consequences of variation in functional traits within and among species is a longstanding focus in ecology and evolutionary biology, and one of my favorite topics of study. I work to identify key functional traits underlying resistance/susceptibility to pest-induced mortality during climate-change driven pest outbreaks in conifer forests of western North America. My work on resin duct traits and their role in tree resistance to pests has laid the foundation for predictive models of pest outbreaks patterns at the landscape scale. Also, my study revealing the effects of conifer bark texture on insect pest attack density and success was the winner of the 2014 Haldane Prize for best early career paper in Functional Ecology (Ferrenberg and Mitton 2014, Functional Ecology). For additional examples see Ferrenberg et al. 2014, Oecologia; Ferrenberg et al. 2015, Tree Physiology; Ferrenberg 2016, Current Landscape Ecology Reports; and Ferrenberg et al. 2017, PeerJ Preprints.