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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., 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.