Interests   •   Functional Basis of Demographic Trade-offs   •   Seed Dispersal & Seedling Regeneration   •   Plant-Soil Feedbacks & Soil Microbiome   •   Biodiveristy & Change in Nebraska's Forests

Research: Biodiveristy & Change in Nebraska's Forests

Forests comprise over a third of land on Earth and regulate critical ecosystem processes and services, such as atmospheric gasses. The forests along the Missouri and Niobrara Rivers in Nebraska are ecologically unique to North America, host diverse habitats, and regulate hydrology. These functions, however, are threatened by climate-related stressors, including increasingly damaging fires, pest outbreaks, and long-term climate warming and drying. There is little longitudinal data on tree populations to link forest changes to these environmental drivers, but these data are critical for effective management and protection of the public and ecosystem services of Niobrara forests.

The Russo Lab is establishing a two permanent forest monitoring plots in Nebraska that are part of the Smithsonian ForestGEO global network of forest dynamics plots. One plot is in the Niobrara River valley in North-central Nebraska, and the other is in Indian Cave State Park in the southeastern corner of the State. Our goals are to: (1) estimate how rates of tree growth, survival, and reproduction respond to changes in water availability, temperature, pest-pressure, and fire, (2) build statistical models to predict and forecast changes in forests, and (3) develop adaptive management plans to mitigate potential threats.

Meet the fantastic field crew!

Listen to a presentation from undergradaute researcher and Cabela's Scholar Brittni McGuire about her research on seedlings in the Niobrara plot: Detecting Signatures of Forest Change in Nebraska's Niobrara Valley

Watch a fun video clip showing undergraduate researcher Brittni McGuire using a crossbow to sample leaves of tall canopy trees: Crossbow sampling!

Watch a video tour of the Indian Cave forest dynamics plot by Sabrina Russo and PhD student Bailey McNichol: Video tour of the Indian Cave forest dynamics plot

Check out videos on tree identification made by PhD student Bailey McNichol: Identification of some of Nebraska's trees

Niobrara Forest Dynamics Plot

Indian Cave Forest Dynamics Plot