UTEP Faculty Member Contributes to Climate Change Article in PNAS Journal
Last Updated on August 26, 2019 at 12:00 AM
Originally published August 26, 2019
By UC Staff
Jennie McLaren, Ph.D., assistant professor of biological sciences at The University of Texas at El Paso, is a co-author of an article on climate change published Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, in the official publication of the National Academy of Sciences.
The article, titled “Global Change Effects on Plant Communities are Magnified by Time and the Number of Global Change Factors Imposed,” appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).
The article combines data from 105 different studies on how plant communities throughout the world have responded to global changes. The experiments have been running for between three and 30 years and examine many of the effects expected from global change, including temperature changes, increasing nutrients, and increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The study found that the effects multiply if you manipulate at least three global change factors simultaneously, which represents how the climate is changing in the real world. McLaren collected her data during more than 30 years of research in Northern Canada in the southwest region of the Yukon Territory. Her findings have been sampled by UTEP undergraduate students since she began working at UTEP.
“The article highlights the importance of long-term research in ecology,” McLaren said. “Few communities responded until global change treatments had been applied for at least 10 years. “For longer experiments, over 70 percent of communities showed changes in their composition.”
PNAS is a highly distinguished journal that has been publishing original research, scientific reviews, letters and commentaries since 1915. LTER Network Office, funded by the National Science Foundation, funded a working group which brought together more than 70 authors who collaborated on the article, led by Kimberly Komatsu, Ph.D., of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. The article synthesized results from experiments around the world on continents including Asia, North America and South America.
“It’s exciting to see such a large group of scientists come to gather to present these important findings,” McLaren said. “The collaborative nature of this work is why it was accepted into such a prestigious journal. Because this study included data from all continents and for many types of global change, it is more representative of the real world. These types of studies really increase our ability to predict what is going to happen with climate change.”
During McLaren’s extensive career in ecology and ecosystem science, her research has focused on long-term effects of changing plant communities on the functioning of ecosystems. Climate change, species invasions and nutrient deposition are changing vegetation patterns and plant species abundance, which can have serious consequences for important ecosystem functions such as litter decomposition and nutrient cycling, she said. Much of her research is conducted in northern ecosystems, including alpine tundra and boreal forest in Northern Canada (Kluane Lake Research Station, Yukon Territory) and arctic tundra in Alaska (Utqiaġvik, Nome and Toolik Lake, Alaska).
Read the full article “Global Change Effects on Plant Communities are Magnified by Time and the Number of Global Change Factors Imposed” at the PNAS website.