School of
Integrative Biology
Carol Augspurger

Office: 217-333-1298

Mail: 286 Morrill Hall, 505 S. Goodwin Ave, Urbana, IL 61801

Carol Augspurger
Professor Emerita - Plant Biology


Ph.D., 1978, University of Michigan

Phenology of trees and herbs, wind dispersal, seed and seedling ecology of tropical trees, plant-pathogen interactions

My current research focus is on plant phenology of trees and herbs in temperate deciduous forests. I have been documenting the timing of bud break, leaf expansion, leaf senescence, and flowering and fruiting for the last 12 years in a local forest fragment, Trelease Woods. This background data set serves as the springboard to address questions that can be answered experimentally. It also provides a long-term data set to evaluate questions about how global climate change is altering phenology. Currently, I am using the long-term data set to collaborate with investigators at the Harvard Forest and in France to determine the extent to which phenology imposes limitation on a species range distribution.

Particular focus has been on plants growing in the shade of the canopy trees and how they may alter their phenology to avoid canopy shade and exploit high light periods. I have documented that, in addition to ephemeral herbs, the leaf phenology of understory saplings predates canopy closure in the spring by as much as three weeks. Subsequent studies have explored the environmental cue underlying this early phenology. I have found that adults and saplings use the same amount of thermal degree hours as their cue, but saplings accumulate degree hours faster and hence begin to leaf out earlier. I have also determined that these understory plants have the physiological capacity to take advantage of the added light in spring to enhance their carbon gain. A current experiment uses shade cloth to eliminate the high light spring phase of the understory individuals and is documenting their growth and mortality responses. Experiments with herbs determine the extent to which the herbs depend on the high light period and whether early cold temperatures or summer canopy shade impose greater limits on the phenology and growing period of many herbaceous species.

My graduate students work in both temperate (Illinois, Utah, Louisiana) and tropical (Panama, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras) habitats and generally focus on aspects of community ecology, especially seed and seedling ecology. Recent Ph.D. projects include dispersal, seed and seedling biology of the nutmeg tree by monkeys, restoration of abandoned pastures using living fence stakes to accelerate forest succession, community attributes that limit invasion by cheatgrass and garlic mustard, seedling ecology explaining patterns of primary tree succession on newly created river sandbars, historical factors explaining the rise in dominance of sugar maple in Illinois forests, and the inhibition of seedling recruitment by dwarf and arborescent tropical palms.

Representative Publications

Lin YC, Augspurger CK (2006) Long-term study of neighbour-regulated demography during a decline in forest species diversity. Journal of Vegetation Science 17: 93-102.

Russo SE, Portnoy S and Augspurger CK (2006) Incorporating animal behavior into seed dispersal models: Implications for seed shadows. Ecology 87(12): 3160-3174.

Zahawi RA and Augspurger CK (2006) Tropical forest restoration: tree islands as recruitment foci in degraded lands of Honduras. Ecological Applications 16: 464-478.