Silvia Alvarez Clare


Contemporary human activities worldwide are altering the resources required by plants (e.g., carbon dioxide, precipitation, and nutrients) at an alarming rate. Understanding how ecosystems are responding to these resource alterations is important for predicting feedbacks between the atmosphere and the biosphere, which have large impacts on global climate and thus human society. My research focuses on the links between the carbon and nutrient cycles and how resource availability can influence biological processes, plant functional traits, and biodiversity preservation.

Most of my work has been conducted in the tropics. Since 2007, I have lead a long-term forest fertilization experiment in a lowland tropical rainforest in Costa Rica, where we have studied how nutrient limitation influences biological processes, such as forest productivity and greenhouse gas emissions from the forest floor. I also collaborate locally with scientists at Argonne National Laboratory, where we are exploring methane dynamics and how microbial community composition relates to greenhouse gas emissions.

As a new faculty member in the Biology Department, I look forward to conducting research with NCC students and hope to introduce them to the joys and challenges of field biology, as well as to analytical techniques used in ecosystems ecology.

Selected Scholarship

Nasto, M. K., S. Alvarez-Clare, Y. Lekberg, B. W. Sullivan, A. Townsend & C. C. Cleveland. 2014. Interactions among nitrogen fixation and soil phosphorus acquisition strategies in lowland tropical rain forests. Ecology Letters 17: 1282–1289.

Sullivan, B. W., S. Alvarez-Clare, S. C. Castle, S. Porder, S. C. Reed, L. Schreeg, A. R. Townsend & C. C. Cleveland. 2014. Assessing nutrient limitation in complex forested ecosystems: Alternatives to large-scale fertilization experiments. Ecology 95: 668–681.

Alvarez-Clare, S., M. C. Mack & M. Brooks. 2013. A Direct test of nitrogen and phosphorus limitation to net primary productivity in a lowland tropical wet forest.Ecology 94:1540–1551.

Cleveland, C. C, A. R. Townsend, P. Taylor, S. Alvarez-Clare, M. M. C. Bustamante, G. Chuyong, P. Grierson, K. Harms, B. Z. Houlton, A. Marklein, W. Parton, S. Porder, S. C. Reed, C. A. Sierra, W. L. Silver, , E. J. R. Tanner & W. R. Wieder. 2011. Relationships among net primary productivity, nutrients and climate in tropical rain forest: a pan-tropical analysis. Ecology Letters 14: 939–947.

Alvarez-Clare, S. & M. C. Mack 2011. Influence of precipitation on soil and foliar nutrients across nine Costa Rican forests. Biotropica 43: 433 –441.

Alvarez-Clare, S. & K. Kitajima. 2009. Susceptibility of tree seedlings to biotic and abiotic hazards in the understory of a moist tropical forest. Biotropica 41: 47–56.

Alvarez-Clare, S. & K. Kitajima. 2007. Physical defense traits enhance seedling survival of neotropical tree species. Functional Ecology 21: 1044–1054.

Manuscripts in preparation

Alvarez-Clare, S. & M. C. Mack. Do foliar, litter, and root nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations reflect nutrient limitation in a lowland tropical wet forest? Plos One (in review).

Alvarez-Clare, S., M. K. Nasto, E. O’Loughlin, C. Sandí, B. W. Sullivan, S. Weintraub & C. C. Cleveland (in prep) Effects of long-term fertilization on greenhouse gas emissions from a wet tropical forest. 

Courses Taught

BIO 151: Biological Investigations I

BIO 152: Biological Investigations II

BIO 253 Ecology and Environment

BIO 301 Plant Physiology