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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.


  • EE Cleland, J Funk, EB Allen (2016). Coastal Sage Scrub. Ecosystems of California. University of California Press, Berkeley, 429-448.
  • AC Ashbacher, EE Cleland (2015). Native and exotic plant species show differential growth but similar functional trait responses to experimental rainfall. Ecosphere 6 (11), art245.
  • CW Kopp, EE Cleland (2015). A Range-Expanding Shrub Species Alters Plant Phenological Response to Experimental Warming. PloS one 10 (9), e0139029.
  • EE Cleland, E Esch, J McKinney (2015). Priority effects vary with species identity and origin in an experiment varying the timing of seed arrival. Oikos 124 (1), 33-40.
  • M Mauritz, E Cleland, M Merkley, DA Lipson (2014). The Influence of Altered Rainfall Regimes on Early Season N Partitioning Among Early Phenology Annual Plants, a Late Phenology Shrub, and Microbes in a Semi-arid Ecosystem. Ecosystems 17 (8), 1354-1370.
  • J McKinney, EE Cleland (2014). Root inputs influence soil water holding capacity and differentially influence the growth of native versus exotic annual species in an arid ecosystem. Restoration Ecology 22 (6), 766-773.
  • LM Hallett, JS Hsu, EE Cleland, SL Collins, TL Dickson, EC Farrer,... (2014). Biotic mechanisms of community stability shift along a precipitation gradient. Ecology 95 (6), 1693-1700.
  • EM Wolkovich, EE Cleland (2014). Phenological niches and the future of invaded ecosystems with climate change. AoB plants 6, plu013.
  • CW Kopp, EE Cleland (2014). Shifts in plant species elevational range limits and abundances observed over nearly five decades in a western North America mountain range. Journal of Vegetation Science 25 (1), 135-146.
  • CE Wainwright, EE Cleland (2013).Exotic species display greater germination plasticity and higher germination rates than native species across multiple cues. Biological Invasions 15 (10), 2253-2264.
  • Cleland, E. E., S. L. Collins, T. L. Dickson, E. C. Farrer, K. L. Gross, L. A. Gherardi, L. M. Hallett, R. J. Hobbs, J. S. Hsu, L. Turnbull & K. N. Suding. (2013). Sensitivity of grassland plant community composition to spatial versus temporal variation in precipitation. Ecology 94:1687-1696.
  • Wolkovich, E. M., B. I. Cook, J. M. Allen,T. M. Crimmins, J. L. Betancourt, S. Travers, S. Pau, J. Regetz, T. J. Davies, N. J. B. Kraft, T. R. Ault, K. Bolmgren, S. J. Mazer, G.J. McCabe, B. J. McGill, C. Parmesan, N. Salamin, M. D. Schwartz & E. E. Cleland (2012). Warming experiments underpredict plant phenological responses to climate change. Nature 485:494-7.
  • Cleland, E.E., L.Larios & K.N. Suding (2012). Strengthening invasion filters to re-assemble native plant communities: soil resources and phenological overlap. Restoration Ecology. 21:390–398.
  • Cleland, E. E., J. M. Allen, T. M. Crimmins, J. A. Dunne, S. Pau, S. Travers, E. S. Zavaleta, and ‡ E. M. Wolkovich (2012). Phenological tracking enables positive species responses to climate change. Ecology 93:1765–1771.*
  • 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 99:1327-1338.