Area of Interest

My research is focused on concepts regarding effects of natural and anthropogenic disturbances that are important in the evolutionary ecology and conservation biology of coastal-plain landscapes of the southeastern United States.

Long-term studies have been conducted in longleaf and south Florida slash pine savannas, temperate and subtropical hardwood forests, and coastal habitats that transition from salt marshes and estuaries to upland forests and pine savannas. Trees, shrubs and herbs are marked, mapped, and censused regularly in study plots in old-growth forests. These empirical demographic studies, some now conducted for almost four decades, have produced quantitative descriptions of spatial and temporal patterns of the population and community dynamics of these habitats, as well as changes that are associated with global climate change.

Hypotheses have been developed regarding effects of disturbances (e.g., fires, hurricanes) on plant populations and communities in the different habitats being studied. Experimental field studies have then been used to test aspects of these hypotheses. For example, study of old-growth longleaf pine populations and groundcover has generated hypotheses regarding the role of pyrogenicity in maintaining conditions conducive for this species (and maintaining, even engineering savannas).

This study has generated long-term experimental studies in which characteristics of fire regimes are manipulated, and population and community-level responses of vegetation are measured. Ongoing experimental studies derived from long-term study of pine savannas are focused on how variation in fire characteristics influence high biodiversity groundcover plant communities in pine savannas.

Recently, study of the plant communities has been expanded to include underground microbial communities and their roles in shaping the fire regimes of pine savannas via effects on litter decomposition. Models of relationships between climate and fire regimes in different pine savannas provide a mechanistic approach to the prediction of fire characteristics, enabling putative relationships between fire-facilitating species and biodiversity to be explored for pine savannas.

This combination of empirical and experimental field ecology has provided new concepts regarding the role of disturbances in generating high biodiversity across trophic levels in southeastern coastal landscapes.


Selected Publications

Selected Publications during the 2000s

Platt, W.J., R.F. Doren, and T. Armentano. 2000. Effects of Hurricane Andrew on stands of slash pine (Pinus elliottii var. densa) in the everglades region of south Florida (USA). Plant Ecology 146:43-60.

Platt, W. J., B. Beckage, R. F. Doren, and H.H. Slater. 2002. Interactions of large-scale disturbances: prior fire regimes and hurricane mortality of savanna pines. Ecology 83:1566-1572.

Batista, W.B. and W.J. Platt. 2003. Tree population response to hurricane disturbance: syndromes in a southeastern United States old-growth forest. Journal of Ecology 91:197-212.

Platt, W.J. and J.H. Connell. 2003. Natural disturbances and directional replacement of species. Ecological Monographs 73:507-522.

Platt, W.J., S.C. Carr, M. Reilly, and J. Fahr. 2006. Pine savanna overstorey influences on ground-cover biodiversity. Applied Vegetation Science 9:37-50.

Thaxton, J.M. and W. J. Platt. 2006. Small-scale fuel variation alters fire intensity and shrub abundance in a pine savanna. Ecology 87:1331-1337.

Beckage, B., W. J. Platt, and L. Gross. 2009. Vegetation, fire, and feedbacks: a disturbance-mediated model of savannas. American Naturalist 174: 805-818.

Gagnon, P.R., H.A. Passmore, W.J. Platt, J.A. Myers, C.E.T. Paine, and K.E. Harms. 2010. Does pyrogenicity protect burning plants? Ecology 91: 3481-3486.

Vargas-Rodriguez, Y. L. and W. J. Platt. 2012. Remnant sugar maple (Acer saccharum subsp. skutchii) populations at their range edge: characteristics, environmental constraints and conservation implications in tropical America. Biological Conservation 150:111-120.

Ellair, D.P. and W.J. Platt. 2013. Fuel composition influences fire characteristics and understory hardwoods in pine savannas. Journal of Ecology 101:192-201.

Fill, J.M., W.J. Platt, S.M. Welch, J.L. Waldron, and T.A. Mousseau. 2015. Updating models for restoration and management of fiery ecosystems. Forest Ecology and Management 356:54-63.

Noss, R.F., W.J. Platt, B.A. Sorrie, A.S. Weakley, D.B. Means, J. Costanza, and R.K. Peet. 2015. How global biodiversity hotspots may go unrecognized: lessons from the North American Coastal Plain. Diversity and Distributions 21: 236-244.

Platt, W.J., D. Joseph, and D.P. Ellair. 2015. Hurricane wrack enhances local plant biodiversity in coastal pine savannas. Ecography 38:63-73.

Platt, W.J., S.L. Orzell, and M.G. Slocum. 2015. Seasonality of fire weather strongly influences fire regimes in south Florida savanna-grassland landscapes. PLoS ONE 10(1): e0116952. (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0116952)

Platt, W.J., A.K. Entrup, E.K. Babl, C. Coryell-Turpin, V. Dao, J.A. Hebert, C.D. LaBarbera, J.F.L. Noto, S.O. Ogundare, L.K. Stamper, and N. Timilsina. 2015. Short-term Effects of Herbicides and a Prescribed Fire on Restoration of a Shrub-encroached Pine Savanna. Restoration Ecology 23:909-917.

Platt, W.J, D.P. Ellair, J.M. Huffman, S.E. Potts, and B. Beckage. 2016. Pyrogenic fuels produced by savanna trees can engineer humid savannas. Ecological Monographs 86:352-372.


Prior Graduate Students at Louisiana State University

J. Stephen Brewer, Ph.D. 1994. Current Position: Professor, Dept. of Biology, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS

Matthew S. Olson, M.S. 1994. Current Position: Associate Professor, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas

Martin F. Quigley, Ph.D. 1994. Current position: Professor & Arboretum Director, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado

Susan L. Grace (Wilder), Ph.D. 1994. Current position: Southeastern Regional Fire Ecologist, USFWS, Slidell, Louisiana 

William B. Batista, Ph.D. 1996. Current position: Professor, Department of Quantitative Methods, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Paul B. Drewa, Ph.D. 1999. Current position: Senior Data Analyst, Information Technology & Services, Progressive Corporation, Cleveland, Ohio

Jill M. Noel, M.S. 1999. Current position: Scientist, Parsons Corporation, Austin Texas

Charles Kwit, Ph.D. 2000. Current position: Research Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee

Susan C. Carr, M.S. 2000. Current position: Private environmental consultant, Gainesville, Florida.

Jarrod M. Thaxton, Ph.D. 2003. Current position: unknown

Heather A. Passmore, Ph.D. 2005. Current position: Visiting Scholar, Murray State University, Kentucky

Jean M. Huffman, Ph.D. 2006. Current Position: Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Paul R. Gagnon, Ph.D. 2006. Current Position: Assistant Professor, Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky

Mindy McCallum, M.S. 2009. Current Position: Extension Associate, LA 4-H program, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Raelene M. Crandall, Ph.D. 2011. Current Position: Assistant Professor, School of Forest Resources & Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

Ellen R. Leichty, Ph.D. 2011. Current Position: unknown

Demetra Kandalepas, Ph.D. 2012. Current Position: Senior Scientist, Wetland Resources, LLC, New Orleans, Louisiana

Becky J. Carmichael, Ph.D. 2012. Current Position: Science Coordinator, LSU Communication across the Curriculum Program, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Darin P. Ellair, Ph.D. 2012. Current Position: Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tracy Hmielowski, Ph.D. 2013. Current Position: Postdoctoral Fire Researcher, Tallgrass Prairie & Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin

Yalma L. Vargas-Rodriguez, M.S. 2005. Ph.D. 2013. Current position: Postdoctoral Research Scientist, University of Guadalajara, Guadalajara, Mexico


Current Lab members

Stephen E. Potts, M.S. Louisiana State University, 2015. Current position: Ph.D. student, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Lance Umlang, M.S. Stephen Austin University, 2015. Current position: Ph.D. student, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Matt Blanchard, B.S. Louisiana State University, 2014. Current position: Ph.D. student, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Viet Dao, Current position: NSF REU undergraduate student researcher, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana