Text Box: Heather D. Alexander, Assistant Professor
Text Box: Alexander Plant and Ecosystem Ecology Lab, UTB

Heather D. Alexander

Assistant Professor

Department of Biological Sciences

University of Texas at Brownsville

One West University Blvd.

LHSB 2.810

Brownsville, TX 78520

(956) 882-7656


Contact information:

Research Summary

My research aims to develop a mechanistic understanding of the ecological resilience of coastal and terrestrial ecosystems in response to human activities. I study factors that trigger regime shifts in ecosystems from their natural, “desired” state to alternative, “undesired” states, the ecological consequences of regime shifts for ecosystem function, and the potential to reverse regime shifts using restoration techniques. This information is crucial for predicting ecosystem response to an ever-changing environment and for guiding conservation activities aimed at sustaining vital natural resources. My research expands across a variety of ecosystems, including boreal forests of Alaska and Siberia, temperate forests of the eastern U.S., salt marshes, coastal prairies, coastal thornscrub forests, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds. My work is largely empirical, using manipulative field-based experimental, manipulative studies and observational approaches across natural gradients. 

Text Box: The University of Texas at Brownsville


Alexander, H. D. and M. A. Arthur. 2014. Increasing red maple leaf litter alters decomposition

             rates and nitrogen cycling in historically oak-dominated forests of the eastern U.S. Ecosystems.

             doi: 10.1007/s10021-014-9802-4.

McLauchlan, K.K., Higuera, P. E. Higuera, Gavin, D. G., Perakis, S. P., Mack, M. M., Alexander, H. D.,

Battles, J., Biondi, F., Buma, B., Colombaroli, D., Enders, S.,  Engstrom, D. R.  Hu, F. S., Marlon, J.,  Marshall, J., McGlone, M., Morris, J., Nave, L., Shuman, B., Smithwick, E., Urrego, D., Wardle, D., Williams, C., Williams, J. J. 2014. Reconstructing disturbances and their biogeochemical consequences over multiple timescales. Bioscience. doi:10.1093/biosci/bit017.

Berner, L. T., Beck, P. S. A., Loranty, M. M., Alexander, H. D., Mack, M. C., Goetz, S. J. 2012.

Cajander larch (Larix cajanderi) biomass distribution, fire regime and post-fire recovery in northeastern Siberia. Biogeosciences 9: 3943 - 3959.

Alexander, H. D., Mack, M. C., Goetz, S., Beck, P. S. A, and Belshe, F. 2012. Implications of increased

deciduous cover on stand structure and aboveground carbon pools of Alaskan boreal forests.

Ecosphere 3(5):45.

Alexander, H. D., Mack, M. C., Goetz, S., Beck, P. S. A., Loranty, M, Earl, K, Zimov, S.,

Davydov, S., and Thompson, C. C. 2012. Carbon accumulation patterns during post-fire succession in Cajander larch (Larix cajanderi) forests of Siberia. Ecosystems. DOI: 10.1007/s10021-012-9567-6.

Arthur, M. A., Alexander, H. D., Dey, D., Schweitzer, C. J., and Loftis, D. L., 2012. Refining the oak-

fire hypothesis for management of oak-dominated forests of the eastern United States. Journal of Forestry 110(5): 257 – 266.

Beck, P. S. A., Goetz, S. Mack, M. C., Alexander, H. D., Yufang, J., Randerson, J. T., and

Loranty, M. 2011. The impacts and implications of an intensifying fire regime on boreal forest composition and albedo. Global Change Biology 17: 2853 – 2866.

Alexander, H. D. and M. A. Arthur. 2010. Implications of a predicted shift from upland oaks to

red maple on forest hydrology and nutrient availability. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 40(4): 716 – 726.

Alexander, H. D. and M. A. Arthur. 2009. Foliar morphology and chemistry of upland oaks, red

maple, and sassafras seedlings in response to single and repeated prescribed fires. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 39: 740 – 754.

Forbes, M., H. D. Alexander, and K. H. Dunton. 2008. The effects of pulsed riverine versus

non-pulsed wastewater inputs of freshwater on plant community structure in a semi-arid salt marsh. Wetlands 28(4): 984 – 994.

Alexander, H. D., M. A. Arthur, D. L. Loftis, and S. R. Green. 2008. Survival and growth of

upland oak and co-occurring competitor seedlings following single and repeated prescribed fires. Forest Ecology and Management 256: 1021 – 1030.

Alexander, H. D. and K. H. Dunton. 2006. Wastewater effluent as an alternative freshwater

source in a hypersaline salt marsh: Impacts on salinity, inorganic nitrogen, and emergent vegetation. Journal of Coastal Research 22(2): 377 – 392.

Alexander, H. D. and K. H. Dunton. 2002. Freshwater inundation effects on emergent

vegetation of a hypersaline salt marsh. Estuaries 25(6B): 1426 – 1435.