The Ecological Society of America (ESA), the largest professional society devoted to ecological science is celebrating its 100th anniversary by showcasing the most notable papers ever published in the society’s various journals. The list of featured authors includes several current Stanford professors that spearheaded studies on everything from species interactions in pond communities to the human-caused forces behind global climate change.  

ESA created its list of notable papers based on the number of times each paper has been cited and the number of online views it has received; both measures of impact and influence on the field of ecological science. Among those listed:

“Habitat structural complexity and the interaction between bluegills and their prey,” co-authored by Larry Crowder, a senior fellow at Woods, science director at the Center for Ocean Solutions and Edward Ricketts Provostial Professor of Biology at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station. The 1982 study was one of the first field experiments to examine the impacts of habitat complexity on the interactions between predators and prey. It has been cited in over 1,100 articles. “Our experiment showed that habitat complexity influences everything from feeding rates and diet diversity to growth rates of predators,” said Crowder. “We found that fish eat large, mobile invertebrate predators, which allows smaller invertebrate populations to increase in the face of fish predation.”

Gretchen Daily, Bing Professor in Environmental Science and Woods senior fellow, is featured on the list as lead author and co-author on two complimentary papers published in 2009. The papers presented new models and frameworks that mapped out how ecosystem services can be incorporated into decision-making for biodiversity conservation. They have each been cited in approximately 800 articles. “It’s heartening to see these advances being adopted by governments, communities and corporations, said Daily. “Natural Capital Project teams are co-designing software and other practical tools with decision-makers to guide investments in conservation and infrastructure development, among other decisions.” 

Robert Jackson, Michelle and Kevin Douglas Provostial Professor of Earth System Science and senior fellow at Woods and the Precourt Institute for Energy, made the list three times. A paper he co-authored on the relationship between the vertical distribution of soil organic carbon to climate and vegetation, published in 2000, has been cited nearly 2,000 times, and has had a large impact on soil ecology research. "I think at least two things made the soil carbon paper so heavily cited,” said Jackson. “First, for its description of soil organic carbon, including the first global estimates for deeper soil layers. Second, for the clear hypothesis—and evidence—that plant types were as important for soil carbon stocks as physical variables associated with climate and soil texture. The biology really mattered."

Peter Vitousek, the Clifford G. Morrison Professor in Population and Resource Studies, Woods senior fellow and Professor of Earth System Science, made the list for the seminal papers, “Beyond Global Warming: Ecology and Global Change,” published in 1994, and “Human alteration of the global nitrogen cycle: Sources and consequences,” published in 1997. Vitousek’s 1994 paper called for a shift in focus around global climate change from a place of public uncertainty to defining what can and should be done about global warming. As a follow-up, his collaborative 1997 paper detailed how human activities altered the global nitrogen cycle and what that meant for terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems worldwide.

Other current Stanford researchers who co-authored publications that made the list:

- Pamela Matson, Chester Naramore Dean of the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Professor in Environmental Studies and Woods senior fellow

- Andre Journel, Donald and Donald M. Steel Professor of Earth Sciences, emeritus

- Harold A Mooney, Paul S. and Billie Achilles Professor in Environmental Biology, Emeritus, and Woods senior fellow, emeritus


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