Rapid Canopy Loss
Project timeline and status: 2021 - 2023, synthesis in progress
See our one-pager call for collaborators and data!
Woodlands of the Great Lakes
Woodlands in the Great Lakes region are threatened by an unprecedented number of disturbances from multiple fronts of global change. Ecosystem functions and plant and animal populations are continuously being altered by a series of inter-related stressors such as the ongoing invasion of non-native plants and invertebrates, escalating nutrient inundation, and habitat fragmentation and isolation. Coupled with these escalating abiotic and biotic changes, many woodlands in the region are still reeling from recent and rapid losses of canopy cover caused by large scale mortality events such as that brought on by the advent of the emerald ash borer.
Understory Plant Communities
While the impact to tree species in these systems is a major focus of recent research, it is less well understood how the individual and combined effects of these disturbances impact the understory plant communities in this system. Understory plant communities are a crucial component of the region’s biodiversity and a great deal of management resources are devoted to restoring and maintaining that diversity. In the face of new potential rapid canopy loss events for dominant species and in order to conserve and plan for current and future restoration efforts it is critical that researchers begin to understand how rapid canopy loss impacts understory communities and how management practices may offset or alter those impacts.
Emerald Ash Borer
Examining how understory plant communities have responded to rapid canopy loss events, such as emerald ash borer, is crucial to conserving and restoring this crucial component of the region’s biodiversity. We will address these questions by compiling pre- and post-canopy loss vegetation data from sites across the Great Lakes region and identifying the magnitude and direction of compositional changes in understory plant communities. The results of this project will allow practitioners to better understand what to expect after future losses to the canopy of dominant tree species and highlight ways to anticipate and mediate negative changes in understory composition.
Understand the drivers of compositional changes
The project seeks to understand how the rapid loss of canopy cover drives changes in understory plant composition and how the trajectory of these changes is altered by initial tree species composition and structure, management interventions (such as prescribed burns and canopy thinning), and the presence and abundance of woody non-native species.
Compile pre- and post-canopy loss vegetation data from a variety of sites across the Great Lakes region and identify the scale and direction of compositional changes in understory plant communities in response to the major disturbance (canopy loss) and covariates such as initial vegetation, canopy structure, and management practices.
Results of this project will be directly disseminated to regional practitioners and will provide a better understanding of what to expect after future losses to the canopy of dominant tree species (such as oak trees) and highlight ways to anticipate and mediate negative changes in understory composition.
Elsa Anderson, Postdoctoral Fellow - Chicago Botanic Garden
Tyler Basset, PH.D, Botanist and Plant Ecologist, Michigan Natural Features Inventory
Lindsay Darling, GIS and Data Specialist - The Morton Arboretum
Adrienne Ernst, Postdoctoral Fellow - Chicago Botanic Garden
Gabriela Nunez-Mir, PH.D, Bridge to the Faculty Scholar, University of Illinois, Chicago
Edward Price, Botanist, Critical Trends Assessment Program - Illinois Natural History Survey
Rory Shiafo, PhD Student, Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden
David Zaya, Plant Ecologist, Critical Trends Assessment Program - Illinois Natural History Survey
Seeking collaborators and data
Do you have data that may help inform this work? Or do you have management questions that you would like to try to address once we have compiled data from across the region? If so, we want to hear from you! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or click the contact us link below and we will schedule time to chat with you.
Get the latest from sCORE with
our email newsletter.
Get In Touch
Have any questions or new ideas
you'd like to share?