I am a plant ecologist studying biological invasions and their impacts on native plant communities and ecosystems. I research the impacts and interactions among co-occurring invasive plant species, and how these impacts might differ from invasions by single invasive plants. Because invasive species are an environmental concern, I design research that promotes scientifically sound invasive management policy and practice. Broadly, my research program seeks to address the complex issue of nonnative, invasive species through two avenues:
- Understanding the ecological functioning of invaded ecosystems and predicting which nonnative, invasive species are likely to have the largest environmental impact; and
- Promoting better policy for curbing nonnative species introductions through assessing efficacy of policies and understanding socio-cultural aspects of invasion.
Understanding the ecological functioning of invaded ecosystems and predicting when nonnative, invasive species are likely to have the largest environmental impacts
My previous and current research explores how interactions among invasive plants change the impacts that individual invaders have on plant communities and ecosystems. This line of research is novel and understudied, representing a theoretical gap in invasion biology and an applied challenge for management. Studying invasive species provides opportunities to test fundamental questions in plant ecology, such as what factors drive plant community assembly processes and how changes in plant community composition can affect ecosystem functions like carbon and nutrient cycling. I use observational studies, greenhouse and field manipulations, reviews and syntheses of the literature, and statistical and null modeling approaches to address my research questions.
Kuebbing & Nuñez 2016, Nature Plants
Kuebbing et al. 2015, New Phytologist
Kuebbing et al. 2015, Ecology
Kuebbing & Nuñez 2015, Global Change Biology
Kuebbing et al. 2014, Journal of Applied Ecology
Kuebbing et al. 2013, Biological Conservation
Kuebbing et al. 2014, Forest Ecology and Management
Kuebbing et al. 2013, Journal of Plant Ecology
In collaboration with Dr. Mark Bradford, I am developing and testing a theoretical framework to project ecosystem impacts of co-occurring nonnatives based on functional trait differences between co-occurring nonnative, invasive, and native plant species. Using lab litter incubation and decomposition experiments with ~30 co-occurring native and nonnative plants we are testing the following predictions: 1) co-occurring invaders will have non-additive effects on litter decomposition when functional traits that determine litter quality are widely dispersed; and 2) co-occurring invaders will influence microbial activity and soil nutrient pools when the functional structure of the group of invaders is the most divergent from the resident natives.
Promoting better policy for curbing nonnative species introductions through assessing efficacy of policies and understanding socio-cultural aspects of invasion
I recognize that a strong research program in understanding the environmental impacts of nonnative, invasive species will not suffice for solving the complex economic and political issues surrounding invasive species policies and management. To this end, I also engage in interdisciplinary research that addresses the socio-cultural aspects of invasion.
Beginning in September 2016, I am excited to join the Society for Conservation Biology as a Smith Conservation Fellow. As part of my fellowship, I will be collaborating with Professor Mark Bradford at Yale University and conservation biologists Kris Serbesoff-King and John Randall with The Nature Conservancy to better understand how we can more effectively manage invasive plant species in natural ecosystems.
Galperin & Kuebbing 2013, Natural Resources & Environment
Nuñez, Kuebbing, et al. 2012, Conservation Letters
Pfennigwerth & Kuebbing 2012, Wildland Weeds
Nonnative plant invasions of native plant communities cause significant and unwanted ecological impacts including decreased native biodiversity and impaired ecosystem functioning. Because nonnative plants can have significant and long-lasting impacts, land managers spend substantial time and money managing nonnative invasive species. The reinvasion of sites managed for invasive species—either by the target nonnative or a secondary nonnative species—is an increasingly common impediment to achieving restoration goals. Researchers and practitioners have labeled this phenomenon an “invasion treadmill”, and successful invasive species management in conservation areas demands that researchers and practitioners develop a better understanding of the relative importance of the ecological mechanisms that promote invasion treadmills.As a Smith Fellow, I will address the following objectives: 1) to understand the relative importance of the mechanisms that promote the reinvasion of conservation sites after management, through a series of field and greenhouse experiments; and 2) to analyze conservation management datasets to locate patterns of when invasion treadmills are most likely to occur