Friday, July 18, 2014

Paper published on coastal woody plant and vine associations

Spencer Bissett’s research is focused on the role of vines in shaping communities in coastal ecosystems, specifically large-scale successional effects.  In his recently-published paper, "Linking habitat with associations of woody vegetation and vines on two mid-Atlantic barrier islands" describes our findings comparing woody and vine plant communities at two sites.  Working at Hog Island, off the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and the Duck Field Research Facility in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Spencer measured environmental variables including soil acidity, soil salinity, elevation, and distance from shoreline at multiple plots, and related these variables to the presence of plants across the sites to test whether these variables affected distributions of woody vegetation or vine species.  Vine presence was positively affected by woody plant presence, which in turn was most strongly influenced by elevation.  In some places, vines were so thick Spencer could walk over the shrubs.  Future research will focus on species-specific relationships, in a continuing effort to better understand the influences contributing to vine presence and success in these fragile, dynamic, and highly environmentally-responsive coastal habitats.  The article can be found at: or by emailing

Image: Smilax sp. covering Morella cerifera thicket. Photo credit: Spencer Bissett

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Plant ecology and hydrology

Our visit to University of Córdoba was productive and successful. Dr. Maria Jose Polo and Dr. Cristina Aguilar presented their work on hydrological models of the Guadalquivir River. Dr. Rafael Villar presented research on plant functional traits and relationships with plant and ecosystem functioning. We are developing research to examine plant functional traits and community changes along riverine environmental gradients, as well as incorporating vegetation changes and subsequent hydrological/biotic feedbacks into models.  We will be considering students interested in pursuing this line of research. Other areas of research that integrate physical and biotic interactions will be developed by VCU Biology and UCO faculty.  During our visit we also enjoyed great food (the essence of the CPEL lab) and wonderful friendship.