Archive for the ‘global change’ Category

NSF Advances in Biological Informatics

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Awesome news! We were just informed that the National Science Foundation will fund our proposal to use pollen, genetic, and distributional data to estimate the spatial dynamics of how trees migrated poleward after the last glacial maximum.  This is a collaborative project with Sean Hoban (Morton Arboretum), Andria Dawson (Mount Royal University), John Robinson (Michigan State University), and Allan Strand (College of Charleston). We will be hiring two postdocs over the 3 years of the grant. The first position will be based at The Morton Arboretum near Chicago, Illinois and the second at Michigan State University.


Phenotypic distribution modeling

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Our latest paper in Global Change Biology on modeling intraspecific phenotypic variation has gotten great press!  Combined, the news outlets covering our research reach ~78 million people and included The San Francisco Chronicle, The Seattle Times, US News and World Report, The Topeka Capital Journal, The Manhattan Mercury, and numerous other regional newspapers, radio stations (e.g., KWMU 90.7), TV stations (e.g., KWCH12), and science news websites (e.g., Science News Online)!

Smith, A.B., Alsdurf, J., Knapp, M. and Johnson, L.C.  2017.  Phenotypic distribution models corroborate species distribution models: A shift in the role and prevalence of a dominant prairie grass in response to climate change.  Global Change Biology 23:4365-4375. doi: 10.1111/gcb.13666

Change in biomass of Andropogon gerardii due to climate change

Change in biomass of Andropogon gerardii due to climate change

A Perfect Storm of Threats

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016
Number of rare plant species threatened by recreation

Number of rare plant species threatened by recreation

Just out: a new analysis by Haydee Hernández-Yáñez and 7 other students at the University of Missouri-Saint Louis and myself on the threats that affect all known rare plants of the US! This is a reprise of the analysis by David Wilcove and colleagues from 1998.  We already got coverage on NPR and Inside Science!

Not appearing in the analysis is the spatial aspect (see image to the right) which we decided to drop near the end because of the article was getting too long.  Still, I’m hoping this will become something else on its own!

Hernández-Yáñez, H., Kos, J.T., Bast, M.D., Griggs, J.L., Hage, P.A., Killian, A., Whitmore, M.B., Loza, M. L., Smith, A.B.  2016.  A systematic assessment of threats affecting the rare plants of the United States.  Biological Conservation 203:260-267.


Friday, July 8th, 2016

CliffhangerI think I was on a long-haul flight across the Pacific when I succumbed to jet-lag induced doldrums and watched Sylvester Stallone’s Cliffhanger which stars him (surprise) as a mountaineer who gets himself out of a dastardly plot by climbing around and flexing his muscles. So if there’s a Rocky of the rare plant world, it’s Appalachian avens, or Geum radiatum.

Like Stallone, Geum likes to hang on cliffs in the Southern Appalachians. And talk about hang!  Eric Menges sent me a few photos of their field work–they use ladders to census the populations.  Now there are also a few populations found on so-called grassy balds (I am fond of this name), but the cliffside populations tend to be more common.  And these cliffs occur at high elevations where the distinction between cloud and mist dissipates.

Geum radiatum

Geum radiatum (Wikimedia)

And like Stallone Geum is threatened–so much so it’s listed on the US Endangered Species Act.  In fact Pedro Quintana-Ascencio‘s models predict that the overall growth rate of the populations for which they have census data is currently below replacement level.  But–intriguingly–growth rate is highly positively linked to relative humidity.

Which is really cool in a technical way–because I was able to extract coarse-scale humidity data from the ClimateNA dataset, then relate this to their fine-scale measurements.  And this in turn allowed Pedro to predict population growth rates under future scenarios of climate change.


“Hang in there, Geum!”

Alas, Geum needs a strongman like Stallone… even though we predicted relative humidity will drop by just a few percent, that’s enough to exacerbate the species’ current downward trajectory.  It’s a slow fall, but it’s still a fall.



Ulrey, C., Quiantana-Ascencio, P.F., Kauffman, G., Smith, A.B., and Menges, E.S.  2016.  Life at the top: Long-term demography, microclimatic refugia, and responses to climate change for a high-elevation southern Appalachian endemic plant.  Biological Conservation 200:80-92. (article page)