Vegetation is an integral part of climate and so, changes in vegetation distributions around the globe, either through natural or anthropogenic land use and land cover change, have the potential to modify climate. From the perspective of an Atmospheric Scientist, vegetation interacts with the atmosphere by modifying fluxes of energy, water, and momentum, processes whose importance varies across the globe. Yet from a Biological perspective, ecosystem structure, diversity, and community dynamics determine the response of an ecosystem to changes in climate. We are working to understand when, where and how vegetation influences climate across a range of spatial and temporal scales.
We use numerical modeling of photosynthesis, ecosystem dynamics, carbon cycling, atmospheric dynamics and the interactions among them to outline and quantify the two-way interactions between ecosystems and climate. This includes the use of global general circulation models of the atmosphere, terrestrial ecosystem models, ecodemographic models representing size and age structure in addition to leaf level photosynthetic behavior, and simple box models of the carbon cycle. In addition to numerical models I utilize data from the site-level, the stand-level, regional networks and satellites.
We are interested in transitions, thresholds, and feedbacks of the coupled ecosystem- climate system, or the ecoclimate. Our work is global in scale, considering the interactions between terrestrial ecosystems not only on their local environment, but also on other regions connected to the local ecosystem through atmospheric circulation.
Our theoretical interests lead to questions such as:
- How will changes in agricultural area in the future feedback on climate?
- What processes control the response of climate to vegetation in different regions on the globe?
- What is the role of past plant distributions on circulation and precipitation?