Understanding plant population, community, and invasion dynamics

Research in my group examines leading questions at the interface of plant population and community ecology. Though I am primarily an empirical ecologist, the approaches we take often have population models at their core, allowing rigorous links between theoretical concepts and the dynamics of plants in their natural environment. Over the last ten years, our research has focused on two primary themes: (1) the maintenance of species diversity and (2) the controls over the spread and impact of biological invasions.

Our projects have explored all stages of the invasion process, from introduction through impact.  Current work examines the movement of invasive plants across landscapes, and how habitat fragmentation influences invader spread and native plant persistence. This work combines mathematical models with empirical approaches involving Arabidopsis, an experimental system in which the ecological and evolutionary controls over invader spread can be teased apart. Our research into the maintenance of biodiversity combines experiments and models to explore the role of niche differences between species in regulating their coexistence. Recent work in this area explores how ecological drift, genetic diversity and natural selection influence the outcome of plant interactions.


Recent Publications

  • Winning and losing with microbes: how microbially mediated fitness differences influence plant diversity
    Kandlikar, GS; Johnson, CA; Yan, XY; Kraft, NJB; Levine, JM
    ECOLOGY LETTERS, 22 (8):1178-1191; 10.1111/ele.13280 AUG 2019
  • Earlier phenology of a nonnative *plant* increases impacts on native competitors
    Alexander, JM; Levine, JM
    PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 116 (13):6199-6204; 10.1073/pnas.1820569116 MAR 26 2019
  • Evolution during population spread affects *plant* performance in stressful environments
    Lustenhouwer, N; Williams, JL; Levine, JM
    JOURNAL OF ECOLOGY, 107 (1):396-406; 10.1111/1365-2745.13045 JAN 2019
  • Effects of rapid evolution on species coexistence
    Hart, SP; Turcotte, MM; Levine, JM
  • Species persistence under climate change: a geographical scale coexistence problem
    Usinowicz, J; Levine, JM
    ECOLOGY LETTERS, 21 (11):1589-1603; 10.1111/ele.13108 NOV 2018
  • A competition-defence trade-off both promotes and weakens coexistence in an annual *plant* *community*
    Petry, WK; Kandlikar, GS; Kraft, NJB; Godoy, O; Levine, JM
    JOURNAL OF ECOLOGY, 106 (5):1806-1818; 10.1111/1365-2745.13028 SEP 2018
  • Experimental evidence that density dependence strongly influences plant invasions through fragmented landscapes
    Williams, Jennifer L.; Levine, Jonathan M.
    ECOLOGY 99(4): 876-884 10.1002/ecy.2156 APR 2018
  • Rapid evolution of phenology during range expansion with recent climate change
    Lustenhouwer, Nicky; Wilschut, Rutger A.; Williams, Jennifer L.; et al.
    GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY 24(2): E534-E544 10.1111/gcb.13947 FEB 2018
  • What genomic data can reveal about eco-evolutionary dynamics
    Rudman, Seth M.; Barbour, Matthew A.; Csillery, Katalin; et al.
    NATURE ECOLOGY & EVOLUTION 2(1): 9-15 10.1038/s41559-017-0385-2 JAN 2018
Jonathan Levine

Prof. Dr. Jonathan Levine
ETH Zurich
Institute of Integrative Biology
8092 Zurich

Tel: +41 (0)44 632 63 01

Research topics

  • Factors controling the establishment, spread, and impacts of plant invasions.
  • Forces maintaining species diversity in communities.
  • Importance of species traits and demographic stochasticity in community assembly.
  • Ecological consequences of genetic diversity.



  • Ecological impacts of global climate change.
  • Exploring the interface between mathematical theory and experimentation.
  • Ecological research of importance for conservation.