Dr. Jared Balik, Western Colorado University
Predicting Functional Outcomes of Climate-driven Changes in Animal Communities through Species Traits and The Geography of Wildfire Spread and Occurrence in North America
Dr. Balik will describe two very different research projects. First, animals can have large effects on ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling or detritus processing, but these can be difficult to study directly in natural systems. Single species contributions are often particularly challenging to isolate and measure. However, species’ functional traits provide mechanistic links between animals and their effects on ecosystem processes, and thus provide an indirect method of understanding species’ functional roles and contributions to overall ecosystem processes. To demonstrate this approach, we quantified key functional traits (nutrient excretion and detritus processing rates) of larval caddisflies that are biomass-dominant detritivores in subalpine ponds. We then develop a novel framework for making pond-level predictions of animal contributions to ecosystem processes and explore functional outcomes of differences in community composition among pond hydroperiod classifications and invasions by range-expanding caddisflies. Second, climate change is broadly projected to promote rapid fire growth and increase the frequency of extreme wildfire events, but the spatio-temporal patterns of fire growth and duration remain poorly understood. Understanding how these aspects of fire behavior differ across broad spatial scales is critical to anticipating future fire activity given ongoing shifts in climate-fire-vegetation interactions. Here, we characterized wildfire growth rates, duration, and extreme spread events across 13 ecoregions of the United States and Canada using remotely sensed daily fire progression of ~9300 fires ≥ 400ha to explore the geography and climate space of wildfire spread and occurrence in North America.
Jared Balik is an ecosystem ecologist and biogeochemist interested in how climate change modulates biological communities and their associated ecosystem functions and services. He combines field observations, experimental manipulations, and long-term datasets with novel simulation models and geographic information systems (GIS) to explore the causes and ecosystem consequences of global change. He is particularly interested in using species’ functional traits to understand their contributions to ecosystem processes in systems or landscapes experiencing climate change. He is also interested in using remotely sensed data to explore drivers of extreme wildfire events and model their functional outcomes.
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