Research

The UCI Ecological Preserve offers unique opportunities to learn about local natural ecosystems, how best to steward them, and their influence on and responses to human activity. Below are examples of research, education, and restoration studies and projects involving UCI faculty, students and partner organizations.

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Research Projects:

Adaptive Capacity of California Sagebush in Response to Climate Change Researchers in the field

UC researchers conducted a study on a common shrub species to see how climate change may impact its populations and the insects associated with them. Seeds of this species were collected different populations along the California coast and subjected to different levels of drought stress. Southern California plants tended to be more drought tolerant, but had a lower number of arthropods compared to northern California plant species. If northern California starts to become like southern California, then there is a chance that northern California species will not be able to adapt in time.

 

Fighting Drought with Stormwater

From Research to Practice This multi-campus research initiative looks compare land classes for stormwater infrastructure on five University of California campuses. Green infrastructure (naturally vegetation) is a cost effective, resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts that provides many community benefits. Green infrastructure reduces and treats stormwater at its source while delivering environmental, social, and economic benefits. One of the larger goals of this project is to quantify insect and plant diversity of green infrastructure, as well as understand how insect and plant diversity associated with it differs from lawn, ornamental landscape areas and other natural, non-green infrastructure areas.

Clinal adaptation and adaptive plasticity in Artemisia californica: implications for the response of a foundation species to predicted climate change

Artemisia californicaThis project examines the clinal variation in traits and performance—and plastic responses to environmental changes—for the shrub Artemisia californica. The study features five population of Artemisia Californica distribute over 700 km in south and central California—this represents 70% of its range and includes 85% of the precipitation gradient. Plants within these five populations were cloned and grown for three years in a treatment that approximate the precipitation regimes of the north and south margins. As a result, the researchers found that, (1) northern population had a higher water use efficiency and lower growth rate than the southern species (2) the high-precipation treatment increased growth and flower production more for the southern population (3) clinal patterns in plant traits and plasticity are indicative of adaptation to both the mean and variability of environmental conditions.

The Consequences of Floral Herbivory for Pollinator Service to Isomeris Arborea

This project studies the impact of herbivory on pollen behavior using the pollen beetle species Melingethes rufimanus. The beetles lay their eggs in the flower buds of Isomeris arborea, a drought-decidous perennial shrub that flowers January through November, resulting in damage to the plant. Plants that were exposed to the beetle produced fewer buds versus plants that were not exposed to the beetle. Plants that were not exposed produced three times as much nectar and had twice as many anthers per flower.

Higher Predation Risk for Insect Prey at Low Latitudes and Elevation

Spanning six continents, this global study seeks to determine whether the well-accepted ecological law that diversity of species increases toward the tropics translates into differences in interaction rates among species. The research tests for predation rates using a single approach involving model caterpillars. Predator attacks were higher towards the equator, and at lower elevations, but only for arthropod (an invertebrate with an exoskeleton and jointed body) predators.