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Forest Isbell

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Forest Isbell
Associate Director for Cedar Creek, Adjunct Faculty Member


Lab webpage | Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve

Research interests

Biodiversity; ecosystem functioning; stability; ecosystem services; nutrient enrichment; land use changes; exotic species; extreme climatic events

Research statement

I am broadly interested in questions at the intersection of community and ecosystem ecology. I use field experiments to investigate the causes and consequences of changes in plant diversity, often in grasslands at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. I also lead synthesis studies across many ecosystems to determine the generality of our findings at Cedar Creek.

To understand the causes of changes in plant diversity, I study how biodiversity responds to anthropogenic drivers, such as land use changes, nutrient enrichment, exotic species invasions, and extreme climatic events. I am particularly interested in whether cessation of these anthropogenic perturbations leads to recovery of biodiversity, or whether the community remains stuck in an alternative stable state. To understand the consequences of changes in plant diversity, I study how ecosystem functioning (for example, productivity) and ecosystem services (for example, carbon storage for climate regulation) respond to changes in plant diversity. I am now combining these efforts to quantify the extent to which anthropogenic perturbations influence ecosystem processes by restructuring communities and altering biodiversity.

Selected Publications

Isbell, F., et al. 2015. Biodiversity increases the resistance of ecosystem productivity to climate extremes. Nature 526:574-577.

Isbell, F., et al. 2015. The biodiversity-dependent ecosystem service debt. Ecology Letters 18:119-134.

Hautier, Y., D. Tilman, F. Isbell, et al. 2015. Anthropogenic environmental changes affect ecosystem stability via biodiversity. Science 348:336-340.

Isbell, F., et al. 2013. Nutrient enrichment, biodiversity loss, and consequent declines in ecosystem productivity. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 110:11911–11916.

Isbell, F., et al. 2013. Low biodiversity state persists two decades after cessation of nutrient enrichment. Ecology Letters 16:454-460.

Reich, P. B., D. Tilman, F. Isbell, et al. 2012. Impacts of biodiversity loss escalate through time as redundancy fades. Science 336:589-592.

Tilman, D., P. B. Reich, and F. Isbell. 2012. Biodiversity impacts ecosystem productivity as much as resources, disturbance, or herbivory. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 109:10394–10397.

Isbell, F., et al. 2011. High plant diversity is needed to maintain ecosystem services. Nature 477:199-202.

Isbell, F. I., and B. J. Wilsey. 2011. Increasing native, but not exotic, biodiversity increases aboveground productivity in ungrazed and intensely grazed grasslands. Oecologia 165: 771-781.


Ph.D., Iowa State University, 2010
Phone Number
Email Address

2660 Fawn Lake Drive NE
East Bethel, MN 55005