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.

Select Publications

  • Waterton, J & EE Cleland (2016). Trade‐off between early emergence and herbivore susceptibility mediates exotic success in an experimental California plant community. Ecology and Evolution 6: 8942-8953.
  • Kopp, CW & EE Cleland (2015). A range-expanding shrub species alters plant phenological response to experimental warming. PloS one 10 (9), e0139029.
  • Cleland, EE, E Esch & J McKinney (2015). Priority effects vary with species identity and origin in an experiment varying the timing of seed arrival. Oikos 124: 33-40.
  • Kopp, CW & 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: 135-146.
  • Wainwright, CE & EE Cleland (2013). Exotic species display greater germination plasticity and higher germination rates than native species across multiple cues. Biological Invasions 15: 2253-2264.
  • Wolkovich, EM, BI Cook, JM Allen, TM Crimmins, JL Betancourt, S Travers, S Pau, J Regetz, TJ Davies, NJB Kraft, TR Ault, K Bolmgren, SJ Mazer, GJ McCabe, BJ McGill, C Parmesan, N Salamin, MD Schwartz & EE Cleland (2012). Warming experiments underpredict plant phenological responses to climate change. Nature 485: 494-497.
  • Cleland, EE, JM Allen, TM Crimmins, JA Dunne, S Pau, S Travers, ES Zavaleta & EM Wolkovich (2012). Phenological tracking enables positive species responses to climate change. Ecology 93: 1765–1771.