Matthew Bowker, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor
Community and ecosystem ecology of soils; restoration ecology; biological crusts and mycorrhizas
and Ecosystem Ecology of Soils
I am a soil ecologist largely
focused on ecosystem and community ecology of sub-humid and dryer ecosystems
(inclusive of some forests, woodlands, grasslands, steppes and deserts). My
research topics vary from empirical work focused on the advancement of theory
in the areas of biodiversity effects on ecosystem function, and species
interactions, to applied work focused on modeling the distribution of
biological crusts, restoration of biological crusts, and understanding erosion
processes. I am a qualified plant ecologist and mycorrhizal ecologist, but I am
best known for my work on biological crusts having authored over 20 papers on
this topic, including several specifically on restoration. I maintain an
international network of collaborators in Spain, Australia, and the United
Kingdom and I was recently a participant in a truly global scientific network
studying ecosystem multifunctionality.
My current and future research
lines include the following:
1. Ecosystem Multifunctionality: Which soil and plant community
properties are the most important influences on ecosystem multifunctionality?
Ecosystems are valued not just for particular functions which they perform, but
also for their ability to perform multiple functions simultaneously. An example
might be a semi-arid woodland which, to be considered multifunctional, must
simultaneously serve as a carbon sink, produce forage, and curtail soil
erosion, among other functions. My collaborators and I have been investigating
the relative influence of community properties such as biodiversity (including
richness and evenness), patch size distributions and other spatial patterns,
community structure, and overall abundance in determining ecosystem
2. Soil organism roles in plant migrations: What role will symbiotic
soil organisms such as mycorrhizal fungi play in plant migration under climate
change? This is a new direction for me. In previous work, we determined that
local mycorrhizal fungi assist local plant ecotypes in adapting to their local
soil environments. We will apply this question in an experimental climate
3. Biotic controls on soil erosion: Which biota are the “heavy
lifters” in terms of stabilizing soil against erosion in various subhumid,
semi-arid, and arid ecosystems? I have long been looking at the relative import
of plants, biocrusts, and mycorrhizal fungi in creating soil aggregation in
systems where vegetation is discontinuous. Recent developments, such as major
drought die-off of trees in semi-arid woodlands, will provide a template to
extend this research.
4. Biocrust restoration materials: Can biocrust organisms be developed
as restoration materials to be applied after disturbances such as woodland
wildfires, overgrazing, or ORV damage? Along with several partners in
ecosystems ranging from Pinyon-Juniper woodlands to Mojave Desert scrub, we are
seeking resources to determine the potential for culturing soil mosses and
cyanobacteria to assist in recovering ecosystem function.
B.A., University of Nevada-Las
M.S., Northern Arizona University, 2004
Ph.D., Northern Arizona University, 2006
Building 82 - Room 236
de Vries, F.T., Liiri, M.,
Bjørnlund, L., Bowker, M.A., Christensen, S., Setälä, H.M., Bardgett, R.D.
2012. Agricultural land use and the stability of food webs, Nature Climate
Change, 2, 276-280.
Maestre, F.T., Quero, J.L., Gotelli,
N.J., Ochoa, V., Delgado-Baquerizo, M., García-Gómez, Bowker, M.A. et al. (over
50 authors). 2012. Biodiversity enhances ecosystem multifunctionality in the
world’s drylands, Science, 335, 214 -217.
Bowker, M.A., Mau,
R.L., Maestre, F.T., Escolar, C., Castillo, A.P. 2011. Functional profiles
reveal unique ecological roles of various biological soil crust organisms,
Functional Ecology, 25, 787-795.
Maestre, F.T., Escolar, C. 2010. Biological crusts as a model system for
examining the biodiversity-function relationship in soils, Soil Biology and
Biochemistry, 42, 405-417.
Bowker, M.A., Miller,
M.E., Belnap, J., Sisk, T.D., and N.C. Johnson. 2008. Prioritizing conservation
effort using biological soil crusts as indicators of dryland ecosystem
functioning, Conservation Biology, 22, 1533-1543.
Bowker, M.A., Maestre, F.T., Reynolds, J.F., Roger, E., Whitford, W.G. 2011.
Impacts of shrub encroachment on ecosystem structure and functioning: toward a
global synthesis, Ecology Letters, 14, 709-722.
Bowker, M.A., Soliveres, S, Maestre, F.T.
2010. Competition increases with abiotic stress and regulates the diversity of
biological soil crusts, Journal of Ecology, 98, 551-560.
Johnson, N.C., Wilson, G.W.T., Bowker,
M.A., Wilson, J., and R.M. Miller. 2010. Resource limitation is a driver of
local adaptation in mycorrhizal symbioses, Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences, 107, 2093-2098.
MaestreF.T., Bowker, M.A., Puche, M.D.,
Hinojosa, M.B., Martínez, I., García-Palacios, P., Castillo,
A.P., Soliveres, S., Luzuriaga, A.L., Sánchez, A.M, Carreira, J.A., Gallardo,
Escudero, A. 2009. Shrub encroachment can reverse desertification in semiarid
Mediterranean grasslands. Ecology Letters 12:930-941.
Bowker, M.A. Biological
soil crust rehabilitation in theory and practice: an underexploited opportunity.
Restoration Ecology 15:13-23, 2007.
Dr. Bowker's publications are also listed at Google Scholar.
Geodermatophilia (Biocrust blog)