Niall is a community and ecosystem ecologist with particular research interests in the ecological and structural dynamics of tropical and temperate savannas and drylands. On-going research projects include theoretical, empirical and model-based studies of the ecology of drought-seasonal grasslands, shrublands and mixed woody-herbaceous ecosystems, the role of competitive interactions and demographic bottlenecks, grazing, fire and other disturbances in determining vegetation structure, and the use of remote sensing and geospatial data to measure and model ecosystem dynamics at landscape, regional and global scales.
The Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research site (JRN) has contributed to a mechanistic and cross-scale understanding of alternative ecosystem states and tipping points in drylands by documenting the multiple interacting processes contributing to triggers and feedbacks. Concepts linking state change and connectivity long emphasized at JRN are now familiar concepts across LTER sites and in the wider ecological community. JRN science has also been influential in international environmental policy and United Nations deliberations on Climate Change and Desertification. JRN insights into state transitions in drylands have directly contributed to improved land management in the western United States and several countries in Africa, East Asia and elsewhere.
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