Global Change Community Ecology Functional Traits Biogeochemistry
Community Responses to Climate Change: How communities are and will continue to respond to climate change and other global change pressures is a longstanding focus of my research. In my current position, I exam the responses of biological soil crusts and vegetation communities to experimental climate change on the Colorado Plateau, Utah, USA. This work has revealed strong, negative impacts of warming temperatures and altered precipitation patterns on biocrusts (community change ordination at right) and some vascular plants. For recent examples of this work see Ferrenberg et al. 2015, PNAS; Ferrenberg et al. 2017, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. For work on community assembly processes in relation to global change disturbances such as fires and tree mortality, see Ferrenberg et al. 2016, PeerJ; Ferrenberg et al. 2013, ISME J; Ferrenberg et al. 2006, Fire Ecology.
Community Structure and Ecosystem Functioning: How communities of similar organisms arranged in different structures affect ecosystem functioning is a central focus of my research. In recent studies, I have used global change related disturbances ranging from wildfires, tree death, and rapid climate change to make predictions regarding the future assembly and structure of communities of soil microbes, ground-dwelling arthropods, and biocrusts. My ongoing work focuses on forecasting how these changes in community structure will affect ecosystem functioning. For recent examples see 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 2016, Current Landscape Ecology Reports; and Ferrenberg et al. 2017, PeerJ Preprints.