MSU Plant Biology Department

Peter G. Murphy, Emeritus

Professor of Plant Biology
Ph.D.(University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)


How do ecological processes structure temperate and tropical plant communities?

Our research emphasis is on the ecology of temperate and tropical terrestrial ecosystems, particularly forests but including shrub and herbaceous plant communities of Lake Michigan sand dune habitats. Among the features of primary interest to us are plant growth, primary productivity, patterns of biomass distribution, regeneration, and species diversity and distribution.

Many of our field studies have been and continue to be in tropical locations, e.g., Venezuela, Puerto Rico, northern Australia, Zaire, Uganda, and Kenya. Increasingly our focus has been on the water-stressed types of tropical forest, such as dry forest, highly seasonal or monsoon forest, and floodplain forest, and the manner in which the vegetation responds to water stress. In the temperate zone our work has been concentrated in the Great Lakes region with focus on beech-maple, oak-hickory, white pine, northern white cedar, and jack pine forest types.

Several of our projects have concerned the interactions among people, animals, and plants and conservation/management strategies for assuring co-existence under disturbed conditions. The basic underlying objective in all of our studies has been to elucidate fundamental aspects of ecosystem structure and function, including those that can be applied to the development of strategies for resource management and conservation.

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Selected Recent Publications

Dunphy, B.K., P.G. Murphy and A.E. Lugo. 2000. The tendency for trees to be multiple-stemmed in tropical and subtropical dry forests: studies of Guanica Forest, Puerto Rico. Tropical Ecology 41(2): l61-167.

Leege, L.M. and P.G. Murphy. 2001. Ecological effects of the non-native Pinus nigra on sand dunes. Canadian Journal of Botany 79(4): 429-437.

Werner, P.A. and P.G. Murphy. 2001. Size-specific biomass allocation and water content of above-and below-ground components of three Eucalyptus species in a northern Australian savanna. Aust. J. Bot. 49: 1-13.

Van Bloem, S.J., P.G. Murphy and A.E. Lugo. 2003. Subtropical dry forest trees with no apparent damage sprout following a hurricane. Tropical Ecology 44(2): 1-9.

Van Bloem, S.J., A.E. Lugo and P.G. Murphy. In press. Structural response of Caribbean dry forests to hurricane winds: a case study from Guanica Forest, Puerto Rico. Journal of Biogeography (Proceedings of the International Dry Forest and Savanna Symposium held in Edinburgh, Scotland, September 2003.)

More Publications

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Current Funding

Recent projects funded by: USDA Forest Service, Michigan DNR, Hanes Fund
Renewal funding not sought due to anticipated retirement in 2005/2006.

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Plant Ecology (PLB 441,reading), fall semester
Tropical Biology (ZOL/PLB/ENT 485), spring semester
Directed Studies (PLB 490) and Special Problems in Ecology, Systematics &
Evolution (PLB 809)

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Lab Members

Skip Van Bloem, Doctoral student
Charlotte Reemts, Masters student
Darin Ellair, Undergraduate researcher
Nicholas Daum, Undergraduate researcher

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Murphy-Lab Alumni- Ph.D. Level

Kenneth W. McLeod. Dissertation: Survival Strategy of Ptelea trifoliata During Establishment on Lake Michigan Sand Dunes. 1974.

John W. Barko. Dissertation: Primary Production and Ecosystem Metabolism in a Lake Michigan Dune Pond. 1975.

Eric N. Hansen. Dissertation: Primary Production and Metabolism of an Ammophila breviligulata (American beachgrass) Community. 1976.

Gary F. Marx. Dissertation: Factors Influencing Specific Growth Rates and Seasonal Abundance of Eutrophic Lake Phytoplankton. 1979.

Mary Lou Marino. Dissertation: Sand Dune Succession: A Comparison of Plant Life History Characteristics. 1980.

Christopher Uhl. Dissertation: Studies of Forest, Agricultural and Successional Environments in the Upper Rio Negro Region of the Amazon Basin. 1980.

William C. Larsen. Dissertation: Structure, Biomass and Net Primary Productivity for an Age-Sequence of Jack Pine Ecosystems. 1982.

Willard M. Rose. Dissertation: Biomass, Net Primary Production and Successional Dynamics of a Virgin White Pine (Pinus strobus) Stand in Northern Michigan. 1984.

Michael L. Scott. Dissertation: Growth Dynamics and Successional Trends in an Old Growth Cedar-Hardwood Dune Forest. 1985.

Gerard T. Donnelly. Dissertation: Forest Composition as Determined by Canopy Gap Dynamics. 1985.

Terese B. Hart. Dissertation: Conflict of Human Interests in the Ituri Forest of Zaire: Implications for Forest Survival. 1985.

Peter L. Weaver. Dissertation: Structure and Dynamics in the Colorado Forest of the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico. 1987.

John M. Kasenene. Dissertation: Tropical Moist Forest Gaps in Relation to Forest Regeneration in Uganda: Implications for Conservation. 1988.

Lissa Leege. Dissertation: The Ecological Impact of Austrian Pine (Pinus nigra) on the Sand Dunes of Lake Michigan: An introduced species becomes an Invader. 1997.

Kurt Stanley. Dissertation: The Structure, Composition and Hydrology of Wet Meadow Plant Communities Fringing Saginaw Bay (Lake Huron). 2000.

Ian A. Ramjohn. Dissertation: The Role of Disturbed Caribbean Dry Forest Fragments in the Survival of Native Plant Biodiversity. 2004.

Skip Van Bloem. Dissertation: Multiple scale patterns in growth and structure of subtropical dry forests: soils, trees, and hurricanes. 2004.

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M.S. Level

James Reiffer. 1974.
Charles E. Nelsen. 1977.
Lois G. Wolfson. 1978.
Kim D. Herman. 1979.
Douglas M. Benson. 1980.
Carolee B. Ware. 1985.
Vicki L. Dunevitz. 1985.
Daniel C. Nepstad. 1988.
Brian J. Palik. 1988.
Elaine Chittenden. 1990.
Swee May Tang. 1991.
Carlos Ramirez. 1992.
Debra Reynolds. 1993.
Matthew Johnstone. 1993.
Agus Susataya. 1994.
Timothy Boland. 1995.
Brian Dunphy. 1996.
Joseph Cook. 1996.
Alicia Biagi. 1998.
Kristen Sherfinski. 2000.
Jeffrey Benefiel. 2000.
Khara Grieger. 2004.
Joseph Harsh. 2004.
Erica McConnell. 2004.
Charlotte Reemts. 2005.

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© 2007 Plant Biology Department, Michigan State University Board of Trustees.