Climate change, fire regime shifts, and biological invasions are three of the greatest challenges of our time. Their direct effects are difficult to predict; their interactions are poorly understood; their indirect effects on species interactions are almost entirely unknown. We are interested in how global changes and species interactions shape plant communities and how plant communities have responded to global changes. To achieve this goal, a long-term perspective is needed since many ecological responses take decades to unfold.
How different aspects of biodiversity (taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic) in communities have changed over time in responses to different drivers of global environmental changes? What are the mechanisms behind such changes? Can we predict future changes in species distributions and biodiversity to provide better management and conservation recommendations? To answer these questions, we have used multiple unique historical dataset (e.g., John Curtis, Vegetation of Wisconsin, the 1950s, California grassland surveyed by Susan Harrison) to determine how have plant communities changed over the past decades in responses to environmental changes such as climate change, land use change, biological invasions, and fire suppression. These studies have applied relevance for conservation of endangered habitats such as pine barrens and grasslands.