Landscape Ecology at Penn State (LEAPS)

Landscape Ecology at Penn State (LEAPS) is focused on understanding important processes at the interface of landscape and ecosystem ecology. Research in LEAPS cuts through traditional disciplinary bounds to ask synthetic questions about ecosystem function through space and time. LEAPS is also committed to cross-scale analysis of challenging issues in earth system science. We work at a variety of scales, from microbial to sub-continental, using laboratory techniques, field studies, and ecosystem simulation models. Our goal is to describe the relevance and consequences of ecosystem patterns for improving understanding of earth system processes.

A common research theme in LEAPS is to understand how disturbances modify ecosystem function across landscapes. For example, fire is an important ecological driver that may create landscape heterogeneity at multiple spatial and temporal scales, influencing biogeochemical cycling and forest succession. Other examples include disturbances of riparian habitat and/or biogeographical shifts in species ranges, which both reflect and create landscape heterogeneity. Understanding the role of these disturbances on landscape heterogeneity elucidates expectations of how forests are likely to respond to climate change.

The director of LEAPS is Erica Smithwick.