Jesse is a native Kansan, and has been working at the Konza Prairie for portions of his undergraduate and graduate degrees, and as KSU faculty since 2007. His research interests are plant ecophysiology and ecohydrology. He is passionate about the conservation of grasslands and communicating the beauty of complexity of these ecosystems.
Grassy ecosystems are comprised of diverse assemblages of grasses, forbs, and woody species. These species exhibit tremendous diversity in form and function, with distinct differences in biomass allocation above or belowground, water uptake from varying soil layers, and subsequent overall flux. Alterations in climate, fire, and grazing have the potential to modify coexistence dynamics and ecosystem processes based on unique anatomical and physiological characteristics of these plant assemblages. Woody encroachment, the expansion of woody plants into grassy ecosystems, is a primary threat to grassland ecosystems worldwide. Woody encroachment may modify ecohydrological and energy dynamics if root distributions alter infiltration pathways or accelerate substrate weathering. In this presentation, I will present data linking the physiological and morphological responses of roots with changes in grassland carbon and water cycling following woody encroachment. These data include long-term observations based on legacies of fire management and grazer abundance, as well as short-term experimental manipulations of drought from the Konza Prairie, KS, USA.
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