Photo of John Battles

Research Expertise and Interest

forest ecology, ecosystem dynamics, disturbance ecology, tree demography, carbon ecology and storage, Sierra Nevada, northern forest

Research Description

John J. Battles is a professor of Forest Ecology.  The goal of his research program is to know how and why forests change. His efforts are guided by the conviction that our understanding must apply to specific forests with all the attendant complexities and idiosyncrasies. Thus robust, quantitative field studies form the core of his approach. Answering these questions is more than just an interesting academic puzzle. As a result of human enterprise (e.g., pollution, land transformations, biotic additions and losses), many forest ecosystems will experience fundamentally novel challenges. In the face of this uncertainty, we need to understand the dynamics well enough to anticipate the likely direction and magnitude of responses. Change in forests is typically mediated by cycles of disturbance and recovery. A central tenet in forest ecology is that the course and rate of recovery is determined by the extent and intensity of the initiating disturbance. In this sense, the disturbance regime is an integral and relatively predictable aspect of forest dynamics. The increasing prevalence of anthropogenic influences and the prospects for these stresses to interact with natural processes underscore the need to refocus attention from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

In the News

How Indigenous Burning Shaped the Klamath’s Forests for a Millennia

A new study published online today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences combines scientific data with Indigenous oral histories and ecological knowledge to show how the cultural burning practices of the Native people of the Klamath Mountains — the Karuk and the Yurok tribes — helped shape the region’s forests for at least a millennia prior to European colonization.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
June 10, 2021
Victoria Franco, Bay City News
University of California experts recently gathered for a wildfire symposium where they discussed new technology created to assist in wildfire events and the overall understanding of wildfires in the state. John Battles, professor and researcher at UC Berkeley, discussed the role that climate plays in wildfire behavior. "Even in the most optimistic future conditions, temperature is going to continue to increase through time," Battles said. He said the consequence for fire is that it creates a huge influx of surface fuels as dead trees fall. "The major concern is that this new surface fuel load can actually create new fire behavior … fire behavior we haven't seen before," Battles said. "Where we have these large massive heavy fuels that burn for days and create new fire physics."
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