Kevin Wilcox

Kevin Wilcox

Associate Professor

325 Sullivan Building


Grassland ecology, disturbance, global change


Ph.D., Colorado State University


My research group focuses on predicting how ecosystems will change in the future when droughts and deluges are more frequent and extreme, disturbances such as fire are more severe, and human pressures are constant. To do this, we integrate three scientific approaches. First, we sort through long-term data, such as historical records of weather, disturbance, and plant growth to discover patterns of how ecosystems have responded to global change in the past. Second, we conduct experiments to identify the mechanisms behind these patterns. Third, we incorporate new understanding about these mechanisms into computational tools, such as process-based models, to make projections of potential future ecosystem states. We are interested in a variety of ecosystems including US tallgrass, mountain meadows in the Greater Smoky Mountains, and South African savannas.


Weng, E., Aleinov, I., Singh, R., Puma, M. J., McDermid, S. S., Kiang, N. Y., Kelley, M., Wilcox, K., Dybzinski, R., Farrior, C. E., Pacala, S. W., and Cook, B. I.: Modeling demographic-driven vegetation dynamics and ecosystem biogeochemical cycling in NASA GISS’s Earth system model (ModelE-BiomeE v.1.0), Geosci. Model Dev., 15, 8153–8180,, 2022.

Avolio, M.L., Komatsu, K., Koerner, S., Grman, E., Isbell, F., Johnson, D., Wilcox, K., Alatalo, J., Baldwin, A., Beierkuhnlein, C., Britton, A., Foster, B., Harmens, H., Kern, C., Li, W., McLaren, J., Reich, P., Souza, L., Yu, Q., Zhang, Y. in press. Making sense of multivariate community responses in global change experiments. Ecosphere. doi: 10.1002/ecs2.4249

Bondaruk, V., Oñatibia, G., Wilcox, K., Yahdjian, L., 2022. Standardized indices to estimate sensitivity to drought across ecosystems. Applied Vegetation Science. doi: 10.1111/avsc.12674

Stears, A., Adler, P., Blumenthal, D., Kray, J., Mueller, K., Ocheltree, T., Wilcox, K., Laughlin, D. 2022. Water availability dictates how plant traits predict demographic rates. Ecology.

Rastetter, E. Kwiatkowski, B., Kicklighter, D., Barker Plotkin, A. Genet, H., Nippert, J., O’Keefe, K., Perakis, S., Porder, S., Roley, S., Ruess, R., Thompson, J., Wieder, W., Wilcox, K., Yanai, R., 2022. N and P constrain C in ecosystems under climate change: role of nutrient redistribution, accumulation, and stoichiometry. Ecological Applications.

Xu, C., Ke, Y., Zhou, W., Luo, W., Ma, W., Song, L., Smith, M.D., Hoover, D.L., Wilcox, K.R., Fu, W. and Zhang, W., 2021. Resistance and resilience of a semi-arid grassland to multi-year extreme drought. Ecological Indicators, 131, p.108139.

Smith, M.D., Koerner, K., Avolio, M., Komatsu, K., Eby, S., Forrestel, E., Collins, S., Wilcox, K., et al. in press. Richness, not evenness, varies across water availability gradients in grassy biomes on five continents. Oecologia.

Langley, A.J., Grman, E.G., Wilcox, K.R., Avolio, M.L., Komatsu, K.J. et al. in press. Do tradeoffs govern plant species responses to different global change treatments? Ecology.

Avolio, M.L., Komatsu, K.J., Collins, S.L., Grman, E., Koerner, S.E., Tredennick, A.T., Wilcox, K.R., Baer, S., Boughton, E.H., Britton, A.J. and Foster, B., 2021. Determinants of community compositional change are equally affected by global change. Ecology Letters.

Liang, M., Liang, C., Hautier, Y., Wilcox, K., Wang, S. 2021. Grazing-induced biodiversity loss impairs grassland ecosystem stability at multiple scales. Ecology Letters. doi: 10.1111/ele.13826.

Fer, I., Gardella, A., K., Shiklomanov, A., N., et al. (23 additional authors including Wilcox). 2020. Beyond ecosystem modeling: A roadmap to community cyberinfrastructure for ecological data-model integration. Global Change Biology.

Wilcox, K., Blumenthal, D., Kray, J., Mueller, K., Derner, J., Ocheltree, T., Porensky, L. 2021. Plant traits relate to precipitation sensitivity of species and communities in semi-arid shortgrass prairie. New Phytologist.

Hautier, Y., Zhang, P., Loreau, M., Wilcox, K., Seabloom, E., Borer, E., Byrnes, J., et al. 2020. General destabilizing effects of eutrophication on grassland productivity at multiple spatial scales. Nature Communications. 11:1-9.

Wilcox, K., Komatsu, K., Avolio, A., et al. 2020. Improving collaborations between empiricists and modelers to advance grassland community dynamics in ecosystem models. New Phytologist.

Avolio, A., Wilcox, K., Komatsu, K., Lemoine, N., Bowman, W., Collins, S., Knapp, A., Koerner, S., Smith, M., Baer, S., Gross, K., Isbell, F., McLaren, J., Reich, P., Suding, K., Suttle, B., Tilman, D., Xu, Z., Yu, Q. 2020. Temporal variability in production is not consistently affected by global change drivers across herbaceous-dominated ecosystems. Oecologia.

Blumenthal, D., Mueller, K., Kray, J., Ocheltree, T., Augustine, D., Wilcox, K. 2020. Traits link drought resistance with herbivore defense and plant economics in semiarid grasslands: the central roles of phenology and leaf dry matter content. Journal of Ecology. DOI:10.1111/1365-2745.13454.

Castillioni, K., Wilcox, K., Jiang, L., Luo, Y., Jung, C. G., Souza, L. 2020. Drought mildly reduces plant dominance in a temperate prairie ecosystem across years. Ecology and Evolution. DOI:10.1002/ece3.6400.

Wilcox, K.R., Koerner, S.E., Hoover, D.L., Borkenhagen, A.K., Burkepile, D.E., Collins, S.L., Hoffman, A., Kirkman, K.P., Knapp, A.K., Strydom, T., Thompson, D.I., Smith, M.D. 2020. Rapid recovery of ecosystem function following extreme drought in a South African savanna-grassland. Ecology. 101:1-9.

Smith, M.D., Koerner, S.E., Knapp, A.K, Avolio, M.L., Chaves, F., Denton, E., Dietrich, J., Gibson, D., Gray, J., Hoffman, A., Hoover, D., Komatsu, K.J., Silletti, A., Wilcox, K.R., Yu, Q., Blair, J.M. 2019. Mass ratio effects underlie ecosystem responses to environmental change. Journal of Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.13330.

Avolio M., Carroll I., Collins S., Houseman G., Hallett L., Isbell F., Koerner S., Komatsu K., Smith M., Wilcox K. 2019. A comprehensive approach to analyzing community dynamics using rank abundance curves. Ecosphere. doi: 10.1002/ecs2.2881

Komatsu K., Avolio M., Lemoine N., Isbell F., Grman E., Houseman G., Koerner S., Johnson D., Wilcox K., et al. 2019. Global change effects on plant communities are magnified by time and number of global change factors imposed. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 116:17867-17873.

Langley A., Chapman, S., Avolio, M., Bowman, W., Johnson, D., La Pierre K., Isbell, F., Wilcox, K. et al. 2018. Ambient changes exceed treatment effects on plant species. Global Change Biology, 24:5668-5679

Wu, D., Ciais, P., Viovy, N. Knapp, A.K., Wilcox K, et al. 2018. Asymmetric responses of primary productivity to altered precipitation simulated by ecosystem models across three long-term grassland sites. Biogeosciences, 15:3421-3437.

Shi, Z., Lin, Y., Wilcox, K.R., Souza, L., Jiang, L., Jiang, J., Jung, C.G., Xu, X., Yuan, M., Guo, X. and Wu, L., 2018. Successional change in species composition alters climate sensitivity of grassland productivity. Global change biology. 24: 4993-5003.

Hoover, D.L., Wilcox, K.R., Young, K.E. 2018. Experimental droughts with rainout shelters: A methodological review. Ecosphere. doi: 10.1002/ecs2.2088

Zhang J., N. Zhao, C. Liu, H. Yang, M. Li, G. Yu, K. Wilcox, Q. Yu, N. He. 2018. C:N:P stoichiometry in China’s forests: from organs to ecosystems. Functional Ecology. 32:50-60.

Wilcox, K.R., Tredennick, A.T., Koerner, S.E., Grman, E., Hallett, L.M., Avolio, M.L., La Pierre, K.J. et al. 2017. Asynchrony among local communities stabilizes ecosystem function of metacommunities. Ecology Letters. 20:1534-1545

Wilcox K., Z. Shi, L. Gherardi, N. Lemoine, S. Koerner, D. Hoover, et al. 2017. Asymmetric responses of primary productivity to climate extremes: a synthesis of grassland precipitation manipulation experiments. Global Change Biology. 23:4376-4385.

Smith, M.D., Wilcox, K.R., Power, S.A., Tissue, D.T., Knapp, A.K. 2017. Assessing community and ecosystem sensitivity to climate change – toward a more comparative approach. Journal of Vegetation Science. 28.2: 235-237.

Chen J., Y. Luo, J. Xia, K. Wilcox, L. Jiang, X. Zhou, S. Niu, J. Liang, Z. Shi, J., J. Cao, et al. 2017. Warming effects on ecosystem carbon fluxes are modulated by plant functional groups. Ecosystems. 20.3:515-526.

Burkepile, D. E., R. W. S. Fynn, D. 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. 105:674-686.

Burkepile, D. E., D. Thompson, R. W. S. Fynn, S. E. Koerner, S. Eby, N. Govender, N. Hagenah, N. P. Lemoine, J. R. Matchett, K. R. Wilcox, S. L. Collins, K. P. Kirkman, A. K. Knapp, and M. D. Smith. 2016. Fire frequency drives habitat selection by a diverse herbivore guild impacting top-down control of plant communities in an African savanna. Oikos. 125:1636-1646.

Koerner, S., M. Avolio, K. La Pierre, K. Wilcox, M. Smith, S. Collins. 2016. Nutrient additions cause divergence of tallgrass prairie plant communities resulting in loss of ecosystem stability. Journal of Ecology. 104:1479-1487.

Wilcox K., J. Blaire, A. Knapp. 2016. Stability of grassland soil C and N pools despite 25 years of an extreme climatic and disturbance regime. JGR: Biogeosciences. 121:1934-1945.

Shi, Z., X. Xu, L. Souza, K. Wilcox, L. Jiang, J. Liang, J. Xia, P. García-Palacios, Y. Luo. 2016. Dual mechanisms regulate ecosystem stability under decade-long warming and biofuel harvest. Nature Communications. 7:doi:10.1038/ncomms11973.

Smith, M. D., A. K. Knapp, S. L. Collins, D. E. Burkepile, K. P. Kirkman, S. E. Koerner, S. Eby, N. Govender, C E. Burns, R. W.S. Fynn, N. Hagenah, K. J. Matchett, D. I. Thompson, J. M. Blair, K. R. Wilcox. 2016. Shared drivers but divergent ecological responses: Insights from long-term experiments in mesic savanna grasslands. BioScience. 66:666-682.

Wilcox K., Blaire J, Smith M, Knapp A. 2016. Does ecosystem sensitivity to precipitation at the site-level conform to regional-scale predictions? Ecology. 97:561-568.

Yu Q, K. Wilcox, K. La Pierre, A. Knapp, M. Smith. 2015. Stoichiometric homeostasis predicts plant species dominance, stability and responses to global change. Ecology. 96:2328-2335.

Knapp, A., D. Hoover, K. Wilcox, M. Avolio, S. Koerner, K. La Pierre, M. Loik, Y. Luo, O. Sala, M. Smith. 2015. Characterizing differences in precipitation regimes of extreme wet and dry years beyond amount: Implications for climate change experiments. Global Change Biology. 21:2624-2633.

Avolio M., K. La Pierre, G. Houseman, E. Grman, F. Isbell, D. S. Johnson, S. Koerner, K. Wilcox. 2015. A framework for quantifying the magnitude and variability of community responses to global change drivers. Ecosphere. 6:1-14.

Wilcox K., J. von Fischer, J. Muscha, M. Petersen, A. Knapp. 2015. Contrasting above- and belowground sensitivity of three Great Plains grasslands to altered rainfall regimes. Global Change Biology 21:335-344.

Avolio M., S. Koerner, K. La Pierre, K. Wilcox, G. Wilson, M. Smith, S. Collins. 2014. Changes in plant community composition, not diversity, drive changes in aboveground productivity during a decade of nitrogen and phosphorus additions in a tallgrass prairie. Journal of Ecology.102:1649-1660.

Eby, S., D. E. Burkepile, R. W. Fynn, C. E. Burns, N. Govender, N. Hagenah, S. E. Koerner, K. J. Matchett, D. I. Thompson, K. R. Wilcox, and others. 2014. Loss of a large grazer impacts savanna grassland plant communities similarly in North America and South Africa. Oecologia 175:293-303.

Kirkman, K., S. Collins, M. Smith, A. Knapp, D. Burkepile, C. Burns, R. Fynn, N. Hagenah, S. Koerner, K. Matchett, D. Thompson, K. Wilcox, P. Wragg. 2014. Responses to fire differ between South African and North American grassland communities. Journal of Vegetation Science 25: 793-804.

Koerner S., D. Burkepile, R. Fynn, C. Burns, S. Eby, N. govender, N. Hagenah, K. Matchett, K. Thompson, K. Wilcox, S. Collins, K. Kirkman, A. Knapp, M. Smith. 2014. Plant community response to loss of large herbivores differs between North American and South African savanna grasslands. Ecology 95:808–816.


Plant Diversity (BIO 422)

Conservation Biology (BIO 426)

Research in the Great Smoky Mountains (BIO 449/648)