Lars Brudvig awarded NSF grant to study community diversity by understanding the strength, duration, and stability of connectivity effects

  • Jul 16, 2019
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  • Jyothi Kumar

Lars Brudvig, an Associate Professor in the Department of Plant Biology, was awarded a 5 year $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study how landscape connectivity affects the diversity and stability of plant communities over decades.

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Brudvig in a longleaf pine woodland - the focal ecosystem of this project. (Photo Credit: Ellen Damschen)

This NSF grant supports the world’s most definitive test of how landscape connectivity affects species diversity. Landscape connectivity, or the degree to which a landscape facilitates movement, is considered fundamentally important for species diversity. However, strong tests of this concept are extremely rare owing to the challenge of conducting experiments at landscape scales.  For 20 years, the evaluation of how landscape connectivity affects plant diversity within the world’s largest and best replicated experimental test of landscape connectivity has been done through manipulating connections between fragments by landscape corridors. This grant will extend the dataset to 25 years, allowing evaluation of the long-term consequences of connectivity for plants and how these are influenced by rates of extinction and colonization, as well as ongoing disturbances, including climate variability.

Brudvig anticipates that the project will inform the conservation and restoration of fragmented ecosystems broadly, including the critically imperiled longleaf pine woodlands that are the focal ecosystem of this project.  “It will support a website (www.conservationcorridor.org) that we created to bridge the science and practice of conservation corridors, which receives 4000 visitors per month”, Brudvig adds. “It will also support training of undergraduate and graduate students and the continuation of our unique landscape experiment”.

Brudvig is excited about both the basic and applied aspects of this research project. “With a unique quarter-century-long dataset, we will be able to break a logjam in the connectivity-diversity debate, through the definitive test of this theory. At the same time, we will inform critical conservation efforts in fragmented landscapes,” Brudvig added.

The research will be conducted in collaboration with Ellen Damschen and John Orrock at the University of Wisconsin, Julian Resasco at University of Colorado, and Nick Haddad at MSU.