Plant Communities

Continuing with the series for UBC Celebrate Research Week, Lindsay introduces Dr. Gary Bradfield:

Dr. Gary Bradfield is an Associate Professor with the UBC Department of Botany where he researches and lectures on plant community ecology.

Dr. Gary Bradfield writes:

Plant communities of forests, grasslands, and wetlands form a living tapestry that clothes the broad spectrum of terrestrial landscapes in which we live. The diversity of these communities, both in species composition and vegetation structure, provides enormous ecological benefits to a myriad of other, non-plant, species, and immeasurable social and economic values to human society. One of our great challenges for the 21st century will be to deepen our respect and understanding of plant diversity to ensure its rightful protection into the future.

There are currently four ongoing research collaborations in my lab:

Climate change impacts on BC grasslands (image 1). As part of a large interdisciplinary team, we (graduate student Robbie Lee co-supervised by Drs. Gary Bradfield and Maja Krzic) will be examining the extent of invasive plant species in grassland communities and developing predictions of directions and rates of expansion of invasive species as future warming occurs.

Vegetation ecology of riparian buffers (image 2) after logging in high elevation forests. Spearheaded by Dr. Lyn Baldwin and graduate students Christine Petersen and Scott Black, we are examining relationships between the width of uncut strips of forest along streams (“buffer strips”) and the diversity and re-colonization potential of the plant species they contain.

Vegetation responses to peatland re-wetting in Québec (image 3 of Andromeda polifolia taken by Steve Henstra in Yukon, but the species also grows in Québec). Linking to the Peatland Ecology Research Group at Université Laval, we (graduate student Steven Henstra co-supervised by Drs. Gary Bradfield and Line Rochefort) will be investigating the trajectory and timing of community-scale vegetation change resulting from hydrological restoration in several historically mined peatlands.

Post-fire succession in Interior Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca) forests of southern BC. With recent graduate students Kaeli Stark and Scott Black, and in collaboration with Dr. André Arsenault, we are examining how plant communities re-assemble in the early stages after the devastating forest fires of 2003. The results are offering guidance for post-fire management actions such as seeding and salvage logging. Species such as Chamerion angustifolium subsp. angustifolium, shown in the image above (image 4), is a pioneering species that colonizes after forest fires, hence its common name fireweed.

British Columbia Grassland
Riparian Buffers
Yukon Peatland
British Columbia Post-Fire

7 responses to “Plant Communities”

  1. Don Fenton

    Thank you for this series. It is my opinion that university-based media should have, as a primary function, the major focus on research by staff and postgrad students. And not just the science faculties.

  2. linda miller

    Thank you for sharing… I am a teacher of art and a Virginia Master Naturalist working with the public. I will enjoying reading about your progress so I can share with others. Have a great day, Linda

  3. Sara

    Instead of 4 tidbits on the different studies, could we get a day dedicated to each one? Then a summary at the end of the week? That would take care of a week’s worth of postings…

  4. lisa

    It looks like these four examples are ongoing research collaborations – maybe we could see a write up of each when their research is finished?
    I’ve wondered about how much depth riparian zones need to be successful. It would be great if this group could work jointly with stream research ecologists (and graduate students) to see how the width of each of these riparian zones effects stream health as well. The two are inextricably linked, and exert a constant energy exchange between forest and stream, with the riparian zone acting as a conduit for this flow, providing support for both systems.

  5. Helen in Washington State

    Your presentation of current research is perfect for me. Like many folks I have much too little knowledge of bioclimatic conditions surrounding us, and just a light touch (4 samples today) introduces me to research wonders that can be built upon in succeeding days. Thank you.

  6. CherriesWalks

    Are you doing any studies on the effects of ski resorts on nature?

  7. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Very interesting, and the links are great.
    The first photo (of BC grasslands) is beautiful.

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