Adaptations of plants to harsh or unusual environments; plant physiological ecology and environmental biophysics; photosynthesis; water and nutrient relations; microclimate measurements in the field; natural isotopes.
Research in my laboratory ranges from the cell to the landscape and ecosystem levels, but with an emphasis on the whole-organism. A primary focus concerns how plants are adapted to their respective habitats and the development of mechanistic explanations for the observed distribution patterns of different species. Unusually harsh or extreme environments (e.g. deserts, alpine, forest understory) are often excellent choices for understanding plant adaptation and distribution. Measurements of photosynthesis, temperature, water and nutrient relations, and natural isotopes provide the foundation for understanding adaptations in physiological processes, as well as structural/functional relationships at the leaf, crown, canopy and stand levels. Current projects are evaluating stress factors at the alpine treeline, including new tree seedlings and snowbank species; determination of sources and sinks for CO2 exchange across mountain/plain landscapes; effects of global warming on alpine treeline and the form and function of alpine plants; impacts of leaf form (anatomy, morphology, and orientation) on photosynthetic performance; the influence of leaf surface wetness (e.g. dewfall) on gas exchange and ecophysiology; winter photosynthesis in evergreen species and effects of accessory pigments (e.g. anthocyanin).
Recent Publications (Link to Full CV here)
White JC and WK Smith. 2013. Water sources in riparian trees of the southern Appalachian foothills, USA: A preliminary study with stable isotope analysis. Riparian Ecology and Conservation 1:46-52. DOI:10.2478/remc-2013-0006
Berry, ZC, NM Hughes, WK Smith. 2013. Cloud immersion: an important water source for spruce and fir saplings in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Oecologia (published on-line Nov 26, 2013). DOI 10.1007/s00442-013-2770-0
Sanchez A,, NM Hughes, WK Smith. 2013. Effects of cloud regime on daily and seasonal microclimate, photosynthesis and water relations in the alpine species, Caltha leptosepala and Arnica parryi, Medicine Bow Mountains, southeastern Wyoming, USA.
Smith WK, ZC Berry. 2013. Sunflecks? Tree Physiology, 33: 233-237. (Invited review)
Berry ZC, JC White, and WK Smith. 2013. Foliar uptake, carbon fluxes, and water status are affected by the timing of daily fog in saplings from a threatened cloud forest. Plant, Cell, & Environment, in review.
Jackson, NL, KF Nordstrom, RA Feagin, WK Smith. 2013. Coastal geomorphology and restoration. Geomorphology 199: 1-7. (Lead article, as well as an invited, organizing editor for this volume)
Smith WK. 2013. A unified paradigm for the climatic elevations of global treelines. Ecology 94:767-778. (invited book review)
Berry, ZC, WK Smith. 2013. Ecophysiological importance of cloud immersion in a relic spruce-fir forest at elevational limits, southern Appalachian Mountains, USA. Oecologia 173: 637-648. DOI 10.1007/s00442-013-2653-4
Sanchez A, JM. Posada, WK Smith. 2013. Dynamic cloud regimes, incident sunlight, and leaf temperatures in Espeletia grandiflora and Chusquea tessellata, two representative species of the Andean Páramo, Colombia. Artic, Antarctic, & Alpine, in press.
Sanchez A, NM Hughes, WK Smith. 2013. Water-use efficiency declines during autumn leaf senescence in three deciduous tree species, North Carolina piedmont, USA. International Journal of Plant Biology4: 16-23..
Berry ZC, WK Smith. 2013. Experimental cloud immersion and foliar water uptake in saplings of Abies fraseri and Picea rubens. Trees: Structure and Function 1-9 (DOI) 10.1007/s00468-013-0934-5
Sanchez A, WK Smith. 2013. Plant functional traits: Perspectives from a quantitative literature survey.Current Trends in Ecology 3: 25-51. (Invited review)
Smith WK. A unified paradigm for the climatic elevations of global treelines. Ecology 94:767-778.
Reed JE, WK Smith. 2013. Stomatal frequency, distribution, and needle hydrophobicity in cloud forest spruce and fir, southern Appalachian Mountains, USA. Review of Undergraduate Research in Agricultural and Life Sciences (RURALS) 7:1-9. (Jennifer Reed, WFU undergraduate).
Wieser G, FK Holtmeier, WK Smith. 2012. Treelines in a changing global environment. Forest Ecology in a Climate-change Future. Springer, in press (Invited chapter, delayed from a promised 2012 publication date)
Carmichael,MJ, ES Bernhardt, SL Bräuer, and WK Smith. 2013. Conduits, stimulants and synthesizers: the role of vegetation in methane flux to the atmosphere. Biogeochemistry http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10533-014-9974-1