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Melinda Smith

Melinda Smith

Professor, Department of Biology, Colorado State University


Department of Biology
Colorado State University
1878 Campus Delivery
Fort Collins, CO 80523


  • Professor, Department of Biology, Colorado State University


Dr. Smith is a plant community ecologist interested in understanding patterns, determinants, and dynamics of diversity and species abundance and how these relate to the functioning of ecosystems. Much of her research is conducted in the field, though her research does involve lab work as a well. She focuses on grassland ecosystems, in particular tallgrass prairie in the central Great Plains of the U.S., but she is also initiating research locally in New England old field and salt marsh communities.


  • PhD, Kansas State University

External Links

Journal Articles


Felton, A. J., I. J. Slette, M. D. Smith and A. K. Knapp. 2020. Precipitation amount and event size interact to reduce ecosystem functioning during dry years in a mesic grassland. Global Change Biology 36(2):658–668. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14789. (link )

Firn, J., J. M. McGree, E. Harvey, H. Flores-Moreno, M. Schütz, Y. M. Buckley, E. T. Borer, E. W. Seabloom, K. J. La Pierre, A. MacDougall, S. M. Prober, C. J. Stevens, L. L. Sullivan, E. Porter, E. Ladouceur, C. Allen, K. H. Moromizato, J. W. Morgan, W. S. Harpole, Y. Hautier, N. Eisenhauer, J. P. Wright, P. B. Adler, C. A. Arnillas, J. D. Bakker, L. Biederman, A. A. Broadbent, C. S. Brown, M. N. Bugalho, M. C. Caldeira, E. E. Cleland, A. Ebeling, P. A. Fay, N. Hagenah, A. R. Kleinhesselink, R. Mitchell, J. L. Moore, C. Noguiera, P. Peri, C. Roscher, M. D. Smith, P. D. Wragg and A. C. Risch. 2020. Author Correction: Leaf nutrients, not specific leaf area, are consistent indicators of elevated nutrient inputs. Nature Ecology & Evolution 4:886-891. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-1213-7. (link )

Hoffman, A. M., J. A. Bushey, T. W. Ocheltree and M. D. Smith. 2020. Genetic and functional variation across regional and local scales is associated with climate in a foundational prairie grass. New Phytologist 227(2):352-364. DOI: 10.1111/nph.16547. (link )

Kent, D. R., J. S. Lynn, S. C. Pennings, L. Souza, M. D. Smith and J. A. Rudgers. 2020. Weak latitudinal gradients in insect herbivory for dominant rangeland grasses of North America. Ecology and Evolution 10(13):6385-6394. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.6374. (link )

Mao, W., X. Zhao, T. Zhang, Z. Sun, Y. Li and M. D. Smith. 2020. Divergent interactive impacts on productivity and functional diversity from fluctuated snowfall and continuous nitrogen pollution within Inner Mongolian. Science of The Total Environment 704(Feb):135443. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135443. (link )

Slette, I. J., M. D. Smith, A. K. Knapp, S. M. Vicente-Serrano, J. J. Camarero and S. Begueria. 2020. Standardized metrics are key for assessing drought severity. Global Change Biology 26(2):e1-e3. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14899. (link )

Smith, M. D., S. E. Koerner, A. K. Knapp, M. L. Avolio, F. A. Chaves, E. M. Denton, J. D. Dietrich, D. J. Gibson, J. E. Gray, A. M. Hoffman, D. L. Hoover, K. J. Komatsu, A. Silletti, K. R. Wilcox, Q. Yu and J. M. Blair. 2020. Mass ratio effects underlie ecosystem responses to environmental change. Journal of Ecology 108(3):855-964. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.13330. (link )

Wilcox, K. R., S. E. Koerner, D. L. Hoover, A. K. Borkenhagen, S. L. Collins, A. M. Hoffman, K. P. Kirkman, A. K. Knapp, T. Strydom, D. I. Thompson and M. D. Smith. 2020. Rapid recovery of ecosystem function following extreme drought in a South African savanna grassland. Ecology 101(4):e02983. DOI: 10.1002/ecy.2983. (link )


Avolio, M. L., I. T. Carroll, S. L. Collins, G. R. Houseman, L. M. Hallett, F. Isbell, S. E. Koerner, K. Komatsu, M. D. Smith and K. R. Wilcox. 2019. A comprehensive approach to analyzing community dynamics using rank abundance curves. Ecosphere 10(10):e02881. DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.2881. (link )

De Boeck, H. J., J. M. Bloor, R. Aerts, M. Bahn, C. Beier, B. A. Emmett, M. Estiarte, J. M. Grunzweig, A. H. Halbritter, P. Holub, A. Jentsch, K. Klem, J. Kreyling, G. Kroel-Dulay, K. Steenberg Larsen, A. Milcu, J. Roy, B. D. Sigurdsson, M. D. Smith, M. Sternberg, V. Vandvik, T. Wohlgemuth, I. Nijs and A. K. Knapp. 2019. Understanding ecosystems of the future will require more than realistic climate change experiments – A response to Korell et al.. Global Change Biology 26(2):e6-e7. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14854. (link )

Komatsu, K., M. L. Avolio, N. P. Lemoine, F. Isbell, E. Grman, G. R. Houseman, S. E. Koerner, D. S. Johnson, K. R. Wilcox, J. M. Alatalo, J. P. Anderson, R. Aerts, S. G. Baer, A. H. Baldwin, J. Bates, C. Beierkuhnlein, R. T. Belote, J. Blair, J. M. Bloor, P. J. Bohlen, E. W. Bork, E. H. Boughton, W. D. Bowman, A. J. Britton, J. F. Cahill Jr, E. Chaneton, N. R. Chiariello, J. Cheng, S. L. Collins, J. H. Cornelissen, G. Du, A. Eskelinen, J. Fim, B. Foster, L. Gough, K. Gross, L. M. Hallett, X. Han, H. Harmens, M. J. Hovenden, A. Jagerbrand, A. Jentsch, C. Kern, K. Klanderud, A. K. Knapp, J. Kreyling, W. Li, Y. Luo, R. L. McCulley, J. R. McLaren, J. P. Megonigal, J. W. Morgan, V. G. Onipchenko, S. C. Pennings, J. Prevey, J. N. Price, P. B. Reich, C. H. Robinson, F. L. Russell, O. E. Sala, E. W. Seabloom, M. D. Smith, N. A. Soudzilovskaia, L. Souza, K. N. Suding, K. B. Suttle, T. Svejcar, D. Tilman, P. M. Tognetti, R. Turkington, S. R. White, Z. Xu, L. Yahdjian, Q. Yu, P. Zhang and Y. Zhang. 2019. Global change effects on plant communities are magnified by time and the number of global change factors imposed. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 116(36):17867-17873. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1819027116. (link )


Asbjornsen, H., J. L. Campbell, K. A. Jennings, M. A. Vadeboncoeur, C. McIntire, P. H. Templer, R. P. Phillips, T. L. Bauerle, M. C. Cietze, S. D. Frey, P. M. Groffman, R. Guerrieri, P. J. Hanson, E. P. Kelsey, A. K. Knapp, N. G. McDowell, P. Meir, K. A. Novick, S. V. Ollinger, W. T. Pockman, P. G. Schaberg, S. D. Wullschleger, M. D. Smith and L. E. Rustad. 2018. Guidelines and considerations for designing field experiments simulating precipitation extremes in forest ecosystems. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 9(12):2310-2325. DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.13094. (link )

Felton, A. J., A. K. Knapp and M. D. Smith. 2018. Carbon exchange responses of a mesic grassland to an extreme gradient of precipitation. Oecologia 1-12. DOI: 10.1007/s00442-018-4284-2. (link )

Griffin-Nolan, R. J., C. J. Carroll, E. M. Denton, M. K. Johnston, S. L. Collins, M. D. Smith and A. K. Knapp. 2018. Legacy effects of a regional drought on aboveground net primary production in six central US grasslands. Plant Ecology 219(5):505-515. DOI: 10.1007/s11258-018-0813-7. (link )

Hoffman, A. M., M. L. Avolio, A. K. Knapp and M. D. Smith. 2018. Codominant grasses differ in gene expression under experimental climate extremes in native tallgrass prairie. Peer J 6:e4394. DOI: 10.7717/peerj.4394. (link )

Knapp, A. K., C. J. Carroll, R. J. Griffin-Nolan, I. J. Slette, F. A. Chaves, L. E. Baur, A. J. Felton, J. E. Gray, A. M. Hoffman, N. P. Lemoine, W. Mao, A. K. Post and M. D. Smith. 2018. A reality check for climate change experiments: Do they reflect the real world?. Ecology 99(10):2145-2151. DOI: 10.1002/ecy.2474. (link )

Koerner, S. E., M. D. Smith, D. E. Burkepile, N. Hanan, M. L. Avolio, S. L. Collins, A. K. Knapp, N. P. Lemoine, E. J. Forrestel, S. Eby, D. I. Thompson, G. A. Aguado-Santacruz, J. P. Anderson, T. M. Anderson, A. Angassa, S. Bagchi, E. S. Bakker, G. Bastin, L. E. Baur, E. A. Beever, P. J. Bohlen, E. H. Boughton, D. Canestro, A. Cesa, E. Chaneton, J. Cheng, C. M. D'Antonio, C. Deleglise, F. Dembélé, J. Dorrough, D. J. Eldridge, B. Fernandez-Going, S. Fernández-Lugo, L. H. Fraser, B. Freedman, G. García-Salgado, J. R. Goheen, L. Guo, S. Husheer, M. Karembé, J. M. Knops, T. Kraaij, A. Kulmatiski, M. Kytöviita, F. Lezama, G. Loucougaray, A. Loydi, D. G. Milchunas, S. J. Milton, J. W. Morgan, C. Moxham, K. C. Nehring, H. Olff, T. M. Palmer, S. Rebollo, C. Riginos, A. C. Risch, M. Rueda, M. Sankaran, T. Sasaki, K. A. Schoenecker, N. L. Schultz, M. Schütz, A. Schwabe, F. Siebert, C. Smit, K. A. Stahlheber, C. Storm, D. J. Strong, J. Su, Y. V. Tiruvaimozhi, C. Tyler, J. Val, M. L. Vandegehuchte, K. E. Veblen, L. T. Vermeire, D. Ward, J. Wu, T. P. Young, Q. Yu and T. J. Zelikova. 2018. Change in dominance determines herbivore effects on plant biodiversity. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2(Dec):1925-1932. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-018-0696-y. (link )

Langley, J. A., S. K. Chapman, K. J. La Pierre, M. L. Avolio, W. D. Bowman, D. S. Johnson, F. Isbell, K. R. Wilcox, B. L. Foster, M. J. Hovenden, A. K. Knapp, S. E. Koerner, C. J. Lortie, J. P. Megonigal, P. C. Newton, P. B. Reich, M. D. Smith, K. B. Suttle and D. Tilman. 2018. Ambient changes exceed treatment effects on plant species abundance in global change experiments. Global Change Biology 24(12):5668-5679. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14442. (link )

Luo, W., C. Xu, W. Ma, X. Yue, X. Liang, X. Zuo, A. K. Knapp, M. D. Smith, J. Sardans, F. A. Dijkstra, J. Penuelas, Y. Bai, Z. Wang, Q. Yu and X. Han. 2018. Effects of extreme drought on plant nutrient uptake and resorption in rhizomatous vs bunchgrass-dominated grasslands. Oecologia 188(2):633-643. DOI: 10.1007/s00442-018-4232-1. (link )

Ochoa-Hueso, R., S. L. Collins, M. Delgado-Baquerizo, K. Hamonts, W. T. Pockman, R. L. Sinsabaugh, M. D. Smith, A. K. Knapp and S. A. Power. 2018. Drought consistently alters the composition of soil fungal and bacterial communities in grasslands from two continents. Global Change Biology 24(7):2818-2827. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14113. (link )

Stuart-Haentjens, E., H. J. De Boeck, N. P. Lemoine, P. Mand, G. Kroel-Dulay, I. Kappel Schmidt, A. Jentsch, A. Stampfli, W. R. Anderegg, M. Bahn, J. Kreyling, T. Wohlgemuth, F. Lloret, A. T. Classen, C. M. Gough and M. D. Smith. 2018. Mean annual precipitation predicts primary production resistance and resilience to extreme drought. Science of The Total Environment 836(Sep):360-366. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.04.290. (link )

Wu, D., P. Ciais, N. Viovy, A. K. Knapp, K. Wilcox, M. Bahn, M. D. Smith, S. Vicca, S. Fatichi, J. Zscheischler, Y. He, X. Li, A. Ito, A. Arneth, A. Harper, A. Ukkola, A. Paschalis, B. Poulter, C. Peng, D. Ricciuto, D. Reinthaler, G. Chen, H. Tian, H. Genet, J. Mao, J. Ingrisch, J. E. Nabel, J. Pongratz, L. R. Boysen, M. Kautz, M. Schmitt, P. Meir, Q. Zhu, R. Hasibeder, S. Sippel, S. R. Dangal, S. Sitch, X. Shi, Y. Wang, Y. Luo, Y. Luo and S. Piao. 2018. Asymmetric responses of primary productivity to altered precipitation simulated by ecosystem models across three long-term grassland sites. Biogeosciences 15:3421-3437. DOI: 10.5194/bg-15-3421-2018. (link )


Burkepile, D. E., R. W. Fynn, D. I. Thompson, N. P. Lemoine, S. E. Koerner, S. Eby, N. Hagenah, K. R. Wilcox, S. L. Collins, K. P. Kirkman, A. K. Knapp and M. D. Smith. 2017. Herbivore size matters for productivity–richness relationships in African savannas. Journal of Ecology 105(3):674-686. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12714. (link )

Denton, E. M., J. D. Dietrich, M. D. Smith and A. K. Knapp. 2017. Drought timing differentially affects above- and belowground productivity in a mesic grassland. Plant Ecology 218(3):317-328. DOI: 10.1007/s11258-016-0690-x. (link )

Felton, A. J. and M. D. Smith. 2017. Integrating plant ecological responses to climate extremes from individual to ecosystem levels. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 372(1723):20160142. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0142. (link )

Forrestel, E. J., M. J. Donoghue, E. J. Edwards, W. Jetz, J. C. du Toit and M. D. Smith. 2017. Different clades and traits yield similar grassland functional responses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114(4):705-710. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1612909114. (link )

Hoover, D. L., A. K. Knapp and M. D. Smith. 2017. Photosynthetic responses of a dominant C4 grass to an experimental heat wave are mediated by soil moisture. Oecologia 183(1):303-313. DOI: 10.1007/s00442-016-3755-6. (link )

Knapp, A. K., M. L. Avolio, C. Beier, C. J. Carroll, S. L. Collins, J. S. Dukes, L. H. Fraser, R. J. Griffin-Nolan, D. L. Hoover, A. Jentsch, M. E. Loik, R. P. Phillips, A. K. Post, O. E. Sala, I. J. Slette, L. Yahdjian and M. D. Smith. 2017. Pushing precipitation to the extremes in distributed experiments: Recommendations for simulating wet and dry years. Global Change Biology 23(51774-1782):. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13504. (link )

Knapp, A. K., P. Ciais and M. D. Smith. 2017. Reconciling inconsistencies in precipitation–productivity relationships: Implications for climate change. New Phytologist 214(1):41-47. DOI: 10.1111/nph.14381. (link )

Smith, M. D., K. R. Wilcox, S. A. Power, D. T. Tissue and A. K. Knapp. 2017. Assessing community and ecosystem sensitivity to climate change – toward a more comparative approach. Journal of Vegetation Science 28(2):235-237. DOI: 10.1111/jvs.12524. (link )

Wilcox, K. R., Z. Shi, L. A. Gherardi, N. P. Lemoine, S. E. Koerner, D. L. Hoover, E. W. Bork, K. M. Byrne, J. F. Cahill Jr, S. L. Collins, S. Evans, A. K. Gilgen, P. Holub, L. Jiang, A. K. Knapp, D. LeCain, J. Liang, P. Garcia-Palacios, J. Penuelas, W. T. Pockman, M. D. Smith, S. Sun, S. R. White, L. Yahdjian, K. Zhu and Y. Luo. 2017. Asymmetric responses of primary productivity to precipitation extremes: A synthesis of grassland precipitation manipulation experiments. Global Change Biology 23(10):4376-4385. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13706. (link )

Wilcox, K. R., A. T. Tredennick, S. E. Koerner, E. Grman, L. M. Hallett, M. L. Avolio, K. J. La Pierre, G. R. Houseman, F. Isbell, D. S. Johnson, J. M. Alatalo, A. H. Baldwin, E. W. Bork, E. H. Boughton, W. D. Bowman, A. J. Britton, J. F. Cahill Jr, S. L. Collins, G. Du, A. Eskelinen, L. Gough, A. Jentsch, C. Kern, K. Klanderud, A. K. Knapp, J. Kreyling, Y. Luo, J. R. McLaren, P. Megonigal, V. G. Onipchenko, J. Prevey, J. N. Price, C. H. Robinson, O. E. Sala, M. D. Smith, N. A. Soudzilovskaia, L. Souza, D. Tilman, S. R. White, Z. Xu, L. Yahdjian, Q. Yu, P. Zhang and Y. Zhang. 2017. Asynchrony among local communities stabilizes ecosystem function of meta-communities. Ecology Letters 20(12):1534-1545. DOI: 10.1111/ele.12861. (link )


Zhu, J., Q. Wang, N. He, M. D. Smith, J. J. Elser, J. Du, G. Yuan, G. Yu and Q. Yu. 2016. Imbalanced atmospheric nitrogen and phosphorus depositions in China: Implications for nutrient limitation. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 121(6):1605-1616. DOI: 10.1002/2016JG003393. (link )


Knapp, A. K., D. L. Hoover, K. R. Wilcox, M. L. Avolio, S. E. Koerner, K. J. La Pierre, M. E. Loik, O. E. Sala and M. D. Smith. 2015. Characterizing differences in precipitation regimes of extreme wet and dry years: Implications for climate change experiments. Global Change Biology 21(7):2624-2633. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12888. (link )


Collins, S. L., S. R. Carpenter, S. M. Swinton, D. E. Orenstein, D. L. Childers, T. L. Gragson, N. B. Grimm, J. M. Grove, S. L. Harlan, J. P. Kaye, A. K. Knapp, G. P. Kofinas, J. J. Magnuson, W. H. McDowell, J. M. Melack, L. A. Ogden, G. P. Robertson, M. D. Smith and A. C. Whitmer. 2011. An integrated conceptual framework for social-ecological research. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9(6):351-357. (link )


Hillebrand, H., E. T. Borer, M. E. Bracken, B. J. Cardinale, J. Cebrian, E. E. Cleland, J. J. Elser, D. S. Gruner, W. S. Harpole, J. T. Ngai, S. A. Sandin, E. W. Seabloom, J. B. Shurin, J. E. Smith and M. D. Smith. 2009. Herbivore metabolism and stoichiometry each constrain herbivory at different organizational scales across ecosystems. Ecology Letters 12(6):516-527. DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2009.01304.x. (link )


Huxman, T. E., M. D. Smith, P. A. Fay, A. K. Knapp, M. R. Shaw, M. E. Loik, S. D. Smith, D. T. Tissue, J. C. Zak, J. F. Weltzin, W. T. Pockman, O. E. Sala, B. M. Haddad, J. Harte, G. W. Koch, S. Schwinning, E. E. Small and D. Williams. 2004. Convergence across biomes to a common rain-use efficiency. Nature 429:651-654. DOI: 10.1038/nature02561. (link )



Baur, L. E., S. L. Collins, A. K. Knapp and M. D. Smith. 2019. Chronic drought severely alters plant species composition in arid grasslands. Poster presented at the 21st Annual CAP LTER All Scientists Meeting and Poster Symposium, January 11, 2019, Skysong, Scottsdale, AZ. (link )