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Donald M. Waller

Donald M. Waller
University of Wisconsin-Madison

PhD
Conservation biology; long-term ecological change; demography and genetics of rare species; forest carbon.

About

245
Publications
80,134
Reads
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18,358
Citations
Introduction
I am a plant ecologist and evolutionary biologist who worked at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison from 1978 to 2019. My interests have evolved to include: • plant demography and reproductive biology; • the evolution of plant mating systems; • evolutionary and quantitative genetics; • the causes and consequences of inbreeding; conservation biology • causes and consequences of exotic plant invasion; • the spatial ecology of plant distributions and abundance; • landscape ecology and effects of habitat fragmentation; • mechanisms and drivers of long-term ecological change; • impacts of deer on tree regeneration and plant communities; • how nitrogen deposition affects population and community dynamics; • how to analyze and interpret shifts in macro-ecological patterns.
Additional affiliations
January 1991 - present
September 1978 - present
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Position
  • John T. Curtis Professor of Botany & Environmental Studies
September 1978 - present
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Position
  • Professor of Botany & Environmental Studies
Education
September 1973 - January 1978
Princeton University
Field of study
  • Population Biology
September 1969 - June 1973
Amherst College
Field of study
  • Biology

Publications

Publications (245)
Preprint
Full-text available
Ungulate herbivore populations are increasing across Europe with important implications for forest plant communities. Concurrently, atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition continues to eutrophy forests, threatening many rare plant species. These pressures may critically interact to shape biodiversity as in grassland and tundra systems, yet any potentia...
Preprint
Full-text available
Classical models ignoring linkage predict that deleterious recessive mutations purge or fix within inbred populations, yet these often retain moderate to high segregating load. True overdominance generates balancing selection that sustains inbreeding depression even in inbred populations but is rare. In contrast, arrays of mildly deleterious recess...
Article
Premise of the study: Habitat fragmentation generates molecular genetic divergence among isolated populations but few studies have assessed phenotypic divergence and fitness in populations where the genetic consequences of habitat fragmentation are known. Phenotypic divergence could reflect plasticity, local adaptation, and/or genetic drift. Meth...
Article
Full-text available
Forests in eastern North America are experiencing high densities of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and encroachment by invasive plants, both of which threaten native biodiversity. We review the literature on deer and invasive plant impacts focusing on studies that simultaneously evaluate the consequences of both. Deer have more frequent...
Article
Full-text available
Assessing biodiversity status and trends in plant communities is critical for understanding, quantifying and predicting the effects of global change on ecosystems. Vegetation plots record the occurrence or abundance of all plant species co‐occurring within delimited local areas. This allows species absences to be inferred, information seldom provid...
Article
Wisconsin’s plant communities are responding to shifting disturbance regimes, habitat fragmentation, aerial nitrogen deposition, exotic species invasions, ungulate herbivory, and successional processes. To better understand how plant functional traits mediate species’ responses to changing environmental conditions, we collected a large set of funct...
Article
As climates change, species with locally adapted populations may be particularly vulnerable as specialization narrows the range of conditions under which populations can persist. Populations adapted to local climate as well as other site‐specific characteristics like soils present challenges for inferring how changing climates affect fitness, as cl...
Article
Full-text available
Traits differentially adapt plant species to particular conditions generating compositional shifts along environmental gradients. As a result, community‐scale trait values show concomitant shifts, termed trait‒environment relationships. Trait‒environment relationships are often assessed by evaluating community‐weighted mean (CWM) traits observed al...
Technical Report
Full-text available
In this report Wisconsin’s Green Fire examines,  Chronic wasting disease (CWD) which is now found in 32 Wisconsin counties.  Widespread habitat deterioration caused by deer over-browsing.  An inability to control deer herd size in Wisconsin’s farmlands.  Long-term declines in the number of deer hunters which limits ability to manage herds throu...
Article
Full-text available
The magnitude of inbreeding depression (ID) varies unpredictably among environments. ID often increases in stressful environments suggesting that these expose more deleterious alleles to selection or increase their effects. More simply, ID could increase under conditions that amplify phenotypic variation (CV²), e.g., by accentuating size hierarchie...
Article
Fertilizers and manure applied to cropland to increase yields are often lost via surface erosion, soil leaching, and runoff, increasing nutrient loads in surface and sub-surface waters, degrading water quality, and worsening the 'dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico. We leverage spatial and temporal variation in agricultural practices and precipitation...
Article
Darwin spent years investigating the effects of self‐fertilization, concluding that “nature abhors perpetual self‐fertilisation.” Given that selection purges inbred populations of strongly deleterious mutations and drift fixes mild mutations, why does inbreeding depression persist in highly inbred taxa and why do no purely selfing taxa exist? Backg...
Article
PREMISE: We tested 25 classic and novel hypotheses regarding trait–origin, trait–trait, and trait– environment relationships to account for flora-wide variation in life history, habit, and especially reproductive traits using a plastid DNA phylogeny of most native (96.6%, or 1494/1547 species) and introduced (87.5%, or 690/789 species) angiosperms...
Preprint
Full-text available
Adaptive relationships between traits and the environment are often inferred from observational data by regressing community-weighted mean (CWM) traits on environmental gradients. However, trait‒environment relationships are better understood as the outcome of trait‒abundance and environment‒abundance relationships, and the interaction between trai...
Preprint
Upon inbreeding, the architecture of the inbreeding load shifts as selection purges strongly deleterious recessive mutations and drift fixes many milder ones. Most small inbred populations show limited genetic variation while crosses between such populations commonly express pronounced heterosis, confirming fixation. In contrast, purging appears to...
Preprint
Full-text available
Despite advances in community assembly theory, uncertainties remain regarding how ecological and evolutionary processes shape species distributions and communities. We analyzed patterns of occurrence for 139 herbaceous plant species across 257 forest stands in Wisconsin (USA) to test predictions from community assembly theory. Specifically, we appl...
Article
Forest loss and fragmentation threaten the high diversity of tropical forests. Tropical epiphytes are a key component of plant diversity and significant for ecosystem functioning, and they are vulnerable to these forces. We explored the potential of shade trees in agroforestry systems to sustain and restore epiphyte communities where forest cover h...
Article
Full-text available
Ecology and Recovery of Eastern Old-Growth Forests. Edited by Andrew M. Barton and William S. Keeton; Foreword by Thomas A. Spies. Washington (DC): Island Press. $40.00 (paper). xvi + 340 p. + 7 pl.; ill.; index. ISBN: 978-1-61091-890-9. 2018. Before European settlement, ancient old-growth forests stretched across vast areas of eastern North Amer...
Article
Full-text available
Biodiversity time series reveal global losses and accelerated redistributions of species, but no net loss in local species richness. To better understand how these patterns are linked, we quantify how individual species trajectories scale up to diversity changes using data from 68 vegetation resurvey studies of seminatural forests in Europe. Herb-l...
Article
Full-text available
When calls go out for “the best,” “credible,” “rigorous,” or “objective” science, the most appropriate response is virtually always an independent review of the work. If the science is found wanting, subsequent steps are usu- ally obvious as a result of the review. Although it is true that calls for review can delay action, there are ways to ensure...
Chapter
Inbreeding (also referred to as “consanguinity”) occurs when mates are related to each other due to incest, assortative mating, small population size, or population sub-structuring. Inbreeding results in an excess of homozygotes and hence a deficiency of heterozygotes. This, in turn, exposes recessive genetic variation otherwise hidden by heterozyg...
Article
Human‐driven species annihilations loom as a major crisis. However the recovery of deer and wolf populations in many parts of the northern hemisphere has resulted in conflicts and controversies rather than in relief. Both species interact in complex ways with their environment, each other, and humans. We review these interactions in the context of...
Article
Full-text available
The relative importance of stochastic and deterministic niche processes can affect assembly communities in response to land use context and change. In this study, we quantified the relative importance of dispersal‐ versus niche‐based processes in structuring forest plant meta‐communities and sought to understand how these processes have changed in...
Article
Full-text available
Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carrière) is a shade-tolerant, slow-growing tree once common in forests across the Great Lakes region. It was heavily exploited in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and now experiences limited regeneration across much of its range. This failure to regenerate has been ascribed to poor seedbed conditions, i...
Article
Full-text available
Atmospheric nitrogen and sulfur pollution increased over much of the United States during the twentieth century from fossil fuel combustion and industrial agriculture. Despite recent declines, nitrogen and sulfur deposition continue to affect many plant communities in the United States, although which species are at risk remains uncertain. We used...
Article
Landscape features often shape patterns of gene flow and genetic differentiation in plant species. Populations that are small and isolated enough also become subject to genetic drift. We examined patterns of gene flow and differentiation among 12 flood‐ plain populations of the selfing annual jewelweed (Impatiens capensis Meerb.) nested within four...
Article
Landscape features often shape patterns of gene flow and genetic differentiation in plant species. Populations that are small and isolated enough also become subject to genetic drift. We examined patterns of gene flow and differentiation among 12 flood‐ plain populations of the selfing annual jewelweed (Impatiens capensis Meerb.) nested within four...
Article
Full-text available
Landscape features often shape patterns of gene flow and genetic differentiation in plant species. Populations that are small and isolated enough also become subject to genetic drift. We examined patterns of gene flow and differentiation among 12 floodplain populations of the selfing annual jewelweed (Impatiens capensis Meerb.) nested within four r...
Article
PREMISE OF THE STUDY: We used spatial phylogenetics to analyze the assembly of the Wisconsin flora, linking processes of dispersal and niche evolution to spatial patterns of floristic and phylogenetic diversity and testing whether phylogenetic niche conservatism can account for these patterns. METHODS: We used digitized records and a new molecular...
Article
Full-text available
Aim Ecological communities are composed of both species and the biotic relationships (interactions or spatial associations) among them. Biotic homogenization in species composition (i.e., increased site‐to‐site similarity) is recognized as a common consequence of global change, but less is known about how the similarity of species relationships ch...
Article
Aim: Ecological communities are comprised of both species and the biotic relationships among them. Biotic homogenization in species composition (i.e. increased site-to-site similarity) is recognized as a common consequence of global change. Far less is known about how patterns of species relationships (interactions and/or spatial associations) chan...
Article
Understorey communities can dominate forest plant diversity and strongly affect forest ecosystem structure and function. Understoreys often respond sensitively but inconsistently to drivers of ecological change, including nitrogen (N) deposition. Nitrogen deposition effects, reflected in the concept of critical loads, vary greatly not only among sp...
Article
Full-text available
Ecologists rely on field surveys to monitor long‐term ecological change but finite sampling and the prevalence of rare species mean that surveys inevitably miss some species present at a given location. These ‘phantom species’ produce pseudo‐turnover by inflating observed rates of local colonization and extinction in resurvey studies, especially am...
Preprint
Full-text available
Our contribution provides a brief overview of key ideas associated with inbreeding, along with short sets of relevant annotated citations. We submitted this to the Oxford Bibliographies series for peer review and consideration for publication in April 2018.
Article
Full-text available
Indigenous peoples manage forestlands and wildlife differently than public and private forestland managers. To evaluate ecological outcomes from these differences, we compared the structure, composition, and diversity of Ojibwe and Menominee tribal forests to nearby nontribal forestlands in northern Wisconsin. These indigenous peoples seek to manag...
Article
Full-text available
American Indians have long managed forests and wildlife for different values than Euro-Americans. Does this result in measurable differences in forest and wildlife conditions? We examined forest and wildlife management on the Ojibwe and Menominee reservations in Wisconsin and compared ecological conditions on tribal vs. non-tribal lands. The longer...
Preprint
Full-text available
Ecological communities are comprised of both species and the biotic relationships among them. Biotic homogenization in species composition (i.e. increased site-to-site similarity) is recognized a common consequence of global change, but less is known about how species relationships change over space and time. Does homogenization of species composit...
Data
## METADATA for suf_phantom_species_data_12Feb2018jb.csv ## site: unique site identifier ## taxa: species name ## frequency_1950s: number of quadrats in which species was present during 1950s field survey ## frequency_2000s: number of quadrats in which species was present during 2000s field survey ## n.quadrats_1950s: number of quadrats sampled dur...
Preprint
Full-text available
From Twig to Tree: Simple methods for teachers and students to track deer impacts Donald M. Waller Dept. of Botany University of Wisconsin - Madison Madison, WI 53706 USA dmwaller@wisc.edu Essay for the American J. Botany series: “On the Nature of Things” Vers. 7.3: 2/11/2018 Word count: 1755 + 24 references < no Abstract > Great trees arise vi...
Preprint
Full-text available
Deer impacts on plant communities have increased making it important to find simple, effective ways to measure these. We assessed the time, effort, and power of the “oak sentinel” method for assessing deer impacts. We will compare these to similar data for two alternative methods based on seedling height and twig age. We planted one-year old seedli...
Article
High densities of white-tailed deer restrict the regeneration of tree species, reduce understory cover and diversity , enhance invasions of exotic species, and facilitate the spread of human and deer diseases. Deer managers often base management decisions on estimated deer densities and carrying capacities, generating controversy. It may be simpler...
Method
Full-text available
Detailed protocol. Accompanies the Forest Ecology and Management article of the same name.
Working Paper
Full-text available
Now out: https://doi.org/10.1111/oik.05114 Ecologists rely on field surveys to monitor long-term ecological change but finite sampling and the prevalence of rare species mean that surveys inevitably miss some species present at a given location. These “phantom species” produce pseudo-turnover by inflating observed rates of local colonization and e...
Method
Full-text available
High densities of white-tailed deer restrict the regeneration of tree species, reduce understory cover and diversity, enhance invasions of exotic earthworms and plants, and facilitate the spread of human and deer diseases. Deer managers often base management decisions on estimated deer densities and carrying capacities, generating controversy. It m...
Article
Full-text available
Plant functional traits allow us to mechanistically link changes in species composition to changes in ecosystem functions. Understanding how and why changes occur in functional composition of plant communities can thus help us better conserve and restore biodiversity. We aim to examine long-term effects of fire exclusion and climate change on the f...
Article
Full-text available
In forests of eastern North America, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) can directly affect, via herbivory, the presence, abundance, and reproductive success of many plant species. In addition, deer indirectly influence understorey communities by altering environmental conditions. 2.To examine how deer indirectly influence understorey plant...
Article
Full-text available
Phylogenetic and functional trait-based analyses inform our understanding of community composition, yet methods for quantifying the overlap in information derived from functional traits and phylogenies remain underdeveloped. Does adding traits to analyses of community composition reduce the phylogenetic signal in the residual variation? If not, the...
Article
Full-text available
More and more ecologists have started to resurvey communities sampled in earlier decades to determine long-term shifts in community composition and infer the likely drivers of the ecological changes observed. However, to assess the relative importance of and interactions among multiple drivers, joint analyses of resurvey data from many regions span...
Article
Full-text available
Do invasive plant species act more as "passengers" or drivers of ecological change in native plant communities? Snapshot studies based on correlations at the site scale ignore longer-term dynamics and variation in how particular invaders affect particular native species. We analyzed patterns of co-occurrence between three invading species (Alliaria...
Article
Metacommunity matrices contain data on species incidence or abundance across sites, compactly portraying community composition and how it varies over sites. We constructed models based on an initial metacommunity matrix of either species incidence or abundance to test whether such data suffice to predict subsequent changes in incidence or abundance...
Article
Full-text available
Dams, levees, and water withdrawals disrupt hydrologic regimes and associated floodplain forests. Because these forests are also responding to changes in land use, species invasions, and climate change, the relative effects of these factors are hard to disentangle. Most studies of floodplain forests lack historic data, requiring us to rely on recen...
Article
Full-text available
National parks of the United States seek to preserve the natural and cultural heritage of the United States, yet parks in the eastern and Midwestern United States were established after periods of human settlement and disturbance. In the Great Lakes region, fire and windfall originally dominated as disturbance agents, driving dynamics in prairies,...
Technical Report
Full-text available
The Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula Ellis) is a rare and localized species in the family Droseraceae endemic to wet coastal plain and sandhills habitats in North and South Carolina. Its dramatic specialized aerial snap trap makes it the most widely recognized carnivorous plant in the world. Its trap is a unique evolutionary adaptation shared with...
Article
Local, short- to medium-term studies make clear that white-tailed deer can greatly suppress tree growth and survival in palatable tree species. To assess how deer have broadly affected patterns of tree recruitment across northern Wisconsin, we analyzed recruitment success in 11 common trees species that vary in palatability across 13,105 USFS - FIA...
Article
Full-text available
Can species shift their distributions fast enough to track changes in climate? We used abundance data from the 1950s and the 2000s in Wisconsin to measure shifts in the distribution and abundance of 78 forest-understory plant species over the last half-century and compare these shifts to changes in climate. We estimated temporal shifts in the geogr...
Data
Table S1. Sample sizes for each site. Sample sizes for each lineage (Group 1, Group 2, Group 3, and hybrids) within sites are given in parentheses. Table S2. Mutation‐scaled migration rate, M (= m/μ), with 95% confidence intervals for each Amphicarpatea bracteata genetic group. Table S3. High resolution melt (HRM) primers and alleles used to assi...
Article
Full-text available
The amphicarpic annual legume Amphicarpaea bracteata is unusual in producing aerial and subterranean cleistogamous flowers that always self-fertilize and, less commonly, aerial chasmogamous flowers that outcross. Although both morphologic and genetic variants are known in this highly selfing species, debate continues over whether this variation is...
Article
Full-text available
Atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition has been shown to decrease plant species richness along regional deposition gradients in Europe and in experimental manipulations. However, the general response of species richness to N deposition across different vegetation types, soil conditions, and climates remains largely unknown even though responses may be...
Article
Full-text available
Patterns of biodiversity are changing rapidly. "Legacy studies" use historical data to document changes between past and present communities, revealing long-term trends that can often be linked to particular drivers of ecological change. However, a single pair of historical samples cannot ascertain whether rates of change are consistent or whether...
Article
Plant species co-occur within communities in response to variation in environmental conditions, limited species dispersal and biotic interactions. We used surveys and resurveys of the same sites of three temperate forest plant communities to study patterns of association between co-occurring species pairs and to infer how these mechanisms contribut...
Article
Full-text available
Understanding how ecological communities are organized and how they change through time is critical to predicting the effects of climate change. Recent work documenting the co-occurrence structure of modern communities found that most significant species pairs co-occur less frequently than would be expected by chance. However, little is known about...
Article
Full-text available
Data on the extent of feral camel damage on trees and shrubs in inland Australia are scarce, and there is currently no universally accepted theoretical framework for predicting the impact of a novel large mammal browser on arid vegetation. In other (mainly mesic) grassy systems, large mammal browsers can strongly suppress woody biomass across lands...
Article
Full-text available
C. I. Millar and N. L. Stephenson (“Temperate forest health in an era of emerging megadisturbance,” Review, 21 August, p. [823][1]) review the increasing susceptibility of temperate forests to stresses such as increasing droughts, insect outbreaks, and more frequent and intense fires (“
Article
Full-text available
Small and isolated populations face threats from genetic drift and inbreeding. To rescue populations from these threats, conservation biologists can augment gene flow into small populations to increase variation and reduce inbreeding depression. Spectacular success stories include greater prairie chickens in Illinois (Westermeier et al. ), adders i...