Phone: 928-523-3049, Fax: 928-523-2300
School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems (Bldg #90)
1295 S. Knoles Drive
PO Box 5693
Flagstaff, AZ 86011
Richardson Lab Web Page: https://www2.nau.edu/richardson-lab/wordpress/
Google scholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=GlGy7vgAAAAJ&hl=en
Professor Richardson is an ecologist whose research addresses the impacts of global change on terrestrial ecosystems, and the feedbacks between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere and climate system.
Richardson’s research focuses on (1) the exchanges of carbon, water, and energy between the land surface and the atmosphere; (2) phenology, or the seasonality of vegetation activity in different ecosystems, and the factors that drive this seasonality; (3) carbon allocation in trees, and basic questions related to tree physiology.
Richardson is PI of the PhenoCam network
, a continental-scale phenological observatory that uses digital camera imagery to track, in near real time, the phenology of diverse ecosystems across North America. In collaboration with David Hollinger (USDA Forest Service), Richardson has been jointly responsible for running the AmeriFlux tower at the Bartlett Experimental Forest
(New Hampshire) since 2004. Richardson is also actively involved in research projects at the Howland Forest
, Maine; the Niwot Ridge
AmeriFlux site in Colorado; the SPRUCE
facility in northern Minnesota; and the Harvard Forest
Human activities are rapidly transforming the Earth’s land, atmosphere, and oceans. It is widely acknowledged that this global change—examples of which include increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases, more frequent and severe extreme weather events, ocean acidification, losses of critically important biodiversity, naturalization of exotic species, and accelerating rates of deforestation and habitat fragmentation—threatens the capacity of our planet to support life. But, major knowledge gaps hinder our ability to accurately predict the complex interactions that will determine how ecosystems respond to, and also influence, future environmental change. Thus, improved understanding of how global change alters ecosystem health and productivity is critical for sustainable management of the Earth’s resources.
Climate change is one of the more prominent examples of global change, and is arguably one of the most important issues facing human society today. Global temperatures rose by about 1°C during the 20th century. While this is small relative to day-to-day and seasonal variation in air temperature, there is substantial evidence that rising temperatures and concurrent shifts in precipitation regimes are affecting the distribution and abundance of many plant (and animal) species. As levels of atmospheric CO2 continue to rise, it is highly likely that additional warming on the order of 1–4°C will occur by the end of the 21st century. This has important implications for the ecology and biology of individual species, for how ecosystems work, and also for the services that ecosystems provide to human societies.
As a global change ecologist, the over-arching question that motivates me is, “How does global change affect the structure and function of terrestrial ecosystems, as well as feedbacks between these ecosystems and the larger Earth system?” I address this question using tools from ecophysiology and ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry and process-based modeling, biometeorology and atmospheric science, and applied mathematics, statistics, and computer science. I study the underlying processes at spatial scales from organs to ecosystems, and temporal scales from minutes to decades. I combine in-situ field studies and experiments, long-term observational data, and quantitative laboratory analyses, to understand processes and investigate mechanisms and drivers. I strive to develop new theory, which I then incorporate into quantitative models, and tested against observations.
I have long been fascinated by the majestic beauty of trees, and much of my research is focused on forested ecosystems. Forests play a vital role in the Earth System. They cover about one-third of the Earth’s land surface area, and are critically important in the global cycles of carbon and water. Forests are regulators of feedbacks between the biosphere and the atmosphere, particularly with respect to levels of atmospheric CO2. Forest photosynthesis accounts for roughly half of the world’s terrestrial productivity, and global forest carbon stocks are comparable in magnitude to the 750 Pg carbon in the atmosphere. Finally, forests provide a range of goods and services on which human societies are reliant, including wood and fiber, food, and fuel. From an applied perspective, research into the effects of global change on forest ecosystems has far-reaching social and economic policy implications.
- Ph.D., Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven CT
- M.F., Forestry, Yale University, New Haven CT
- A.B., Economics, Princeton University, Princeton NJ