David Ward

David Ward

Art and Margaret Herrick Endowed Professor of Plant Biology

Research Interests

My research interests lie in the field of the ecology of plant species redistributions. This includes studying both invasive and encroaching plant species. I am also interested in studying the natural process of succession. Most of my research involves trees. I also study the effects of herbivory by large mammals (such as elephants) on the population biology, community ecology and conservation of plant populations. I firmly believe in the value of field experiments to allow us to gain a mechanistic understanding of the factors that create large-scale vegetation patterns.


CURRENTLY ACCEPTING STUDENTS: PhD student to study the ecology and ecophysiology of encroaching and resident eastern red cedars


Selected Recent Publications

Link to Google Scholar Citations: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=pTy-CwcAAAAJ&hl=en

Link to ISI list of publications: http://www.researcherid.com/rid/E-9814-2010

Ward, D. 2016. The biology of deserts. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. 2nd edition.

  1. Ward, D., Muller, K. & Shrader, A.M. 2016. Soil fertility on granite and sedimentary soils is associated with seasonal differences in foraging by elephants. Plant and Soil [doi: 10.1007/s11104-016-3067-y].
  2. Accatino, F., Wiegand, K., Ward, D. & De Michele, C. 2016. Carrying capacity in arid rangelands during droughts: the role of temporal and spatial thresholds. Animal [doi: 10.1017/S1751731116001531].
  3. Okubamichael, D.Y., Griffiths, M.E. & Ward, D. 2016. Host specificity in parasitic plants - perspectives from mistletoes. AoB Plants plw069. [doi: 10.1093/aobpla/plw069].
  4. Russell, J.M. & Ward, D. 2016. Historical land use and vegetation change in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Land Degradation & Development [doi: 10.1002/ldr.2476].
  5. Griffiths, M.E., Ruiz, N. & Ward, D. 2016. Mistletoe species richness patterns are influenced more by host geographic range than nitrogen content. African Journal of Ecology [doi: 10.1111/aje.12328].
  6. Mureva, A. & Ward, D. 2016. Spatial patterns of encroaching shrub species under different grazing regimes in a semi-arid savanna, eastern Karoo, South Africa. African Journal of Range & Forage Science 33: 77-89.
  7. Schmitt, M.H., Ward, D. & Shrader, A.M. 2016. Incorporating secondary metabolites, tannin-binding proteins, and diet breadth into carrying-capacity models for African Elephants. Ecological Modelling 332: 8-18.
  8. Accatino, F., Wiegand, K., Ward, D. & De Michele, C. 2016. Trees, grass, and fire in humid savannas - the importance of life history traits and spatial processes. Ecological Modelling 320: 135-144.
  9. Tomlinson, K.W., Van Langevelde, F., Ward, D., Prins, H.H.T., De Bie, S., Vosman, B., Sampaio, E.V.S.B., & Sterck, F. 2016. Defence against vertebrate herbivores trades off into architectural and low nutrient strategies amongst savanna Fabaceae species. Oikos 125: 126–136.
  10. Tjelele, T.J., Ward, D. & Dziba, L.E. 2015. The effects of seed ingestion by livestock, dung fertilization, trampling, grass competition and fire on seedling establishment of two woody plant species. PLoS One 10(2): e0117788. [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117788].
  11. Ford, A.T., Goheen, J.R., Otieno, T.O., Binder, L., Isbell, L., Palmer, T.M., Ward, D., Woodroffe, R. & Pringle, R.M. 2014. Large carnivores make savanna tree communities less thorny. Science 346: 346-349.
  12. Okubamichael, D.Y., Griffiths, M.E. & Ward, D. 2014. Reciprocal transplant experiment suggests host specificity of the mistletoe Agelanthus natalitius in South Africa. Journal of Tropical Ecology 30: 153-163.
  13. Russell, J. & Ward, D. 2014. Remote sensing provides a progressive record of vegetation change in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, from 1944 to 2005. International Journal of Remote Sensing 35: 904-926. [doi: 10.1080/01431161.2013.873154].
  14. Vadigi, S. & Ward, D. 2014. Herbivory effects on saplings are influenced by nutrients and grass competition in a humid South African savanna. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 16: 11-20.
  15. Pillay, T.P. & Ward, D. 2014. Competitive effect and response of savanna tree seedlings: comparison of survival, growth and associated functional traits. Journal of Vegetation Science 25: 226-234.
  16. Vadigi, S. & Ward, D. 2013. Shade, nutrients and grass competition are important for tree sapling establishment in a humid savanna. Ecosphere 4: art142. [doi: 10.1890/ES13-00239.1].
  17. Grellier, S., Ward, D., Janeau, J.L., Podwojewski, P., Lorentz, S., Abbadie, L., Valentin, C. & Barot, S. 2013. Positive versus negative environmental impacts of tree encroachment in South Africa. Acta Oecologica 53: 1-10.
  18. Kambatuku, J.R., Cramer, M.D. & Ward, D. 2013. Overlap in soil water sources of savanna woody seedlings and grasses. Ecohydrology 6: 464-473.
  19. Ward, D., Wiegand, K. and Getzin, S. 2013. Walter’s two-layer hypothesis revisited: back to the roots! Oecologia 172: 617-630.
  20. Kambatuku, J.R., Cramer, M.D. & Ward, D. 2013. Nitrogen fertilisation reduces grass-induced N2 fixation of tree seedlings of semi-arid savannas. Plant and Soil 365: 307-320.


Courses Taught:

Plant Ecology

Invasion Biology

Field Course in Ecology and Conservation in South Africa




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