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White, Peter S.

May 20, 2011


News and Notes of Interest

ResearchGate / Google Scholar

Publications / Talks and Seminars


Participation / Recognitions


Prospective students: Near retirement, I am no longer taking students but explore Biology and the Environment, Ecology, and Energy Program (including Geography Department faculty affiliated with this Program) websites for ecologists who may help you!  Though retiring, I am always glad to give advice to prospective and current graduate students through email.

Research Interests

Peter White is a plant ecologist with interests in communities, floristics, biogeography, species richness, the distance decay of similarity and beta diversity, conservation biology, and disturbance and patch dynamics. In vegetation science he is interested in the composition and dynamics of plant communities, the relationship between vegetation and landscape, and role of disturbance, and the ecology of individual species in a dynamic setting. In conservation biology he is interested in the distribution and biology of rare species, the design and management of nature reserves, alien species invasions, and conservation ethics.

From 1986 to 2014, Peter White directed the University’s North Carolina Botanical Garden through a period of exciting changes and growth.  In this role, he and the staff have sought to redefine the scope of botanical gardens to focus on conservation, sustainability, and gardens as the healing interface with and gateway to nature.  The Garden became one of the first gardens to enact policies aimed at diminishing the risk of release of exotic pest organisms in 1998 and was presented with a Program Excellence Award in 2004 by the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta.  In 2009, the Garden opened the Education Center, a 29,000 sq ft facility that became the first LEED Platinum building on any of the 17 University of North Carolina campuses.

Peet, Robert K.

May 11, 2011

Selected publications

Google Scholar Profile


My research activities are diverse and span aspects of vegetation science from plant interactions to global patterns. However, the four projects described below serve to illustrate my current primary research interests. Please note that I am retired to the rank of Research Professor and no longer accept graduate and postdoctoral students, but I am continuing my research projects, continue to collaborate with colleagues, and continue to advise undergraduate research projects.

Community dynamics. Much of my early research at UNC focused on plant community dynamics, a topic that I have continued to investigate throughout my career. With students and collaborators I have made extensive use of permanent plots to address these kinds of questions. We recently completed an additional resurvey of forest demography plots (some dating back to 1934) and are using these data to address a broad range of questions including urban impact, evolving successional dynamics reflecting local and global change, and changes in productivity resulting from factors such as successional dynamics and changes in atmospheric CO2.

Ecoinformatics. Ecoinformatics arrived as a subdiscipline of ecology only around the start of the 21st century. I have been active during this period in developing the necessary cyber-infrastructure and addressing science questions in the area of ecoinformatics that draws on the increasing availability of data that document attributes of places, attributes of biological taxa (species), and records of occurrence and co-occurrence of species in specific places. In the past, studies of ecological communities were largely local case studies and no one knew how generalizable they were; many simply reflected the idiosyncrasies of a particular combination of time and space. We are now in a position to analyze community patterns over very large scales and assess their generality and the impacts of local contingencies.

Vegetation Classification. Formal, widely-adopted vegetation classifications are important for many purposes ranging from inventory to mapping to management prescription to simply documenting the context within which research has been conducted. In 1994 I established a collaboration consisting of the Ecological Society of American, the Nature Conservancy, the USGS and the US Federal Geographic Data Committee (with the US Forest Service as lead agency) to develop an open and scientifically credible US National Vegetation Classification (USNVC). We proposed national standards and in 2008 the Federal Geographic Data Committee adopted the key components as the US national standard. My research group and collaborators built the USNVC data archive in the form of, developed a peer-review system, and have completed the first formal revision and documentation of a significant set of Associations for the National Vegetation Classification.

Vegetation of the Carolinas. I have always been fascinated by the patterns of vegetation and biodiversity across landscapes. The Carolinas are remarkably diverse and the factors responsible for the vegetation of the region are poorly understood. In 1988, I established a collaboration to systematically document the natural vegetation of the Carolinas. Subsequently we have acquired and databased over 10,000 vegetation plots covering most of the over 500 USNVC vegetation types of the Carolinas. The resulting data are summarized on our website ( for use by applied scientists and the general public. In addition, we provide digital tools for predicting the natural vegetation of sites to guide restoration efforts.

Professional Service. I have and continue to contribute to the scientific community in numerous ways. I have served the International Association for Vegetation Science as President (2007-2011) and Publications Officer (2011-2015), I co-founded the Journal of Vegetation Science and served as one of the original Coeditors-in-Chief (1990-1995), I organized of the North American Section, and am active in efforts to establish international standards for vegetation data. I have served the Ecological Society of America as Secretary (1992-1995), Editor-in-Chief of Ecology and Ecological Monographs (1995-2000), and co-organizer of the Vegetation Section and the Southeastern Chapter, in addition to participating in numerous other roles.

Links to websites maintained by Prof. Peet and his collaborators:

Mitchell, Charles E.

May 10, 2011

My research group investigates the community ecology of infectious disease. We study pathogens infecting wild plants, chiefly grasses. Our main current interest is interactions between fungal pathogens and the broader leaf microbiome.