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Elsa Cleland


Research in the Cleland lab focuses on the intersection between plant community and ecosystem ecology, utilizing a combination of experimental, observational and data-synthesis techniques. We have a particular focus on global changes such as climate change, altered precipitation, nitrogen deposition, and invasive species. Current research projects include: 1) Quantifying ecophysiological responses of California native shrubs to shifting precipitation and nitrogen availability in the greenhouse, in comparison to measurements made across natural gradients. 2) Identifying environmental manipulations that maximize the success of ecological restoration efforts in coastal sage scrub ecosystems, and 3) Evaluating the role of phenology (or timing) in structuring native and invasive plant communities. Research into the impacts of global change offers the opportunity to ask fundamental questions about how resources and climate influence the structure and functioning of natural ecosystems, while contributing to a greater understanding of these pressing environmental problems.


  • Cleland, E.E., C.M. Clark, S.L. Collins, J.E. Fargione, L. Gough, K.L. Gross, S.C. Pennings, & K.N. Suding (2011). Native and non-native species have different suites of traits: Evidence from a synthesis of nitrogen fertilization experiments. Journal of Ecology doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2011.01860.x
  • Wolkovich, E.M. & E.E. Cleland (2011). The phenology of plant invasions: a community ecology perspective. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9: 287–294.
  • Cleland, E.E. & W.S. Harpole (2010). Nitrogen enrichment and plant communities. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1195:46-61
  • Cleland E.E., Chuine I., Menzel A., Mooney H.A. and M.D. Schwartz (2007). Shifting plant phenology in response to global change. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 22:357-365.
  • Cleland, E.E., N.R. Chiariello, S.R. Loarie, H.A. Mooney and C.B. Field (2006). Diverse responses of phenology to global changes in a grassland ecosystem. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103:13740-13744.
  • Cleland, E. E., M. D. Smith, S. J. Andelman, C. Bowles, K. M. Carney, M. C. Horner-Devine, J. M. Drake, S. Emery and D. B. Vandermast (2004). Invasion in space and time: Non-native species richness and relative abundance respond to interannual variation in productivity and diversity. Ecology Letters 7:947-957.