Our research in plant functional ecology is at the nexus of comparative ecology, community ecology, and ecosystem ecology.

First, we seek to determine fundamental axes of plant functional variation across species within a given regional species pool (i.e. what species can potentially colonise a local community?). Are aboveground traits correlated with belowground traits?

Second, we aim to quantity how environmental factors 'filters' the regional species pool to give rise to particular species abundance distributions in a local community. What traits help to explain why a species is more common in a given environment?

We are also interested in identifying drivers of plant species coexistence within communities, and explaining spatial variation in plant species diversity. We are also particularly interested in how plants modify soil properties (both biotic and abiotic), and how this then affects plant performance (plant-soil feedback).

Finally, we study how plant traits affect ecosystem functioning. We are particularly interested in carbon and nutrient cycling, for example the process of litter and soil organic matter decomposition.

Field sites

Our research in plant functional ecology is primarily field-based. Our current research uses the following field sites:

The Jurien Bay 2-million year dune chronosequence

Most of our field research in Australia uses a unique >2-million year dune chronosequence in Jurien Bay (Western Australia; 225 km north of Perth). We also study other recently-characterized dune chronosequences along the south-western Australian coastline that form a regional climate gradient.

The Jurien Bay dune chronosequence provides an exceptionnaly strong and well-defined soil nutrient availability gradient that can be used to test various ecological theories. The dune sequence covers both the progressive and retrogressive phases of ecosystem development.

It is is described in detail in this paper.

Station de biologie des Laurentides

At the Station de biologie des Laurentides of Université de Montréal, we have characterised a number of 20 m x 20 m permanent forest plots that are either dominated by arbuscular mycorrhizal trees (e.g. Acer saccharum) or ectomycorrhizaltrees (e.g. Fagus grandifolia), or an equal mix of the two strategies. We use these plots to understand how nutrient-acquisition acquisition strategies modulates the coexistence of these tree species, and how mycorrhizal types controls organic matter decomposition.

Parc National du Mont-Mégantic

We study an elevation gradient in Parc National du Mont Mégantic representing changes from temperate forest at low elevation to boreal forest at high elevation. We use this study system to understand edaphic constraints (both abiotic and biotic) to the establishment of temperate plant species into boreal forests.

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