Christopher Comer, Dean
Professor, Division of Biological Sciences
Adjunct Professor, College of Forestry and Conservation
Plant Physiology (BIOO 433, 434)
Physiological Plant Ecology (BIOO 524)
Introduction to Botany (BIOO 105)
B.S. University of Barcelona (Spain), 1984
Ph.D. University of Barcelona (Spain), 1992
I am broadly interested in plant resource allocation and its implications on plant life history traits and performance in the field. Within this general framework, my students, collaborators and I have engaged in different research adventures. We have examined the interaction of hydraulic, physiological and structural traits in different conifer species and habitats in Northern Rocky Mountain forests. We are also exploring whether and how internal resource dynamics influence life history strategies in plants (e.g. masting and prolonged dormancy). Another major focus in our lab has been the analysis of the consequences of fire exclusion and active forest management on forest structure and function in mixed ponderosa pine forests. While the initial focus of this research was to examine tree responses to alterations in resource availability, we have also done work on how past management has influenced current forest structure. I am becoming very interested in the interaction between plant resource allocation (including to storage) and responses to drought.
Field of Study
Plant physiological ecology
Martínez-Vilalta* J, Sala A*, Asensio D; Galiano L, Hoch G, Palacio S, Piper FI, Lloret F. In press. Dynamics of non-structural carbohydrates in terrestrial plants: a global synthesis. Ecological Monographs. *equal contribution
Hood S, Baker S, Sala A. 2016. Fortifying the Forest: Thinning and Burning Increase Resistance to a Bark Beetle Outbreak and Promote Forest Resilience. Ecological Applications. doi: 10.1002/eap.1363. Featured in The Economist (May 26, 2016).
Quentin AG, et al. 2015. Non-structural carbohydrates in woody plants cannot be quantitatively compared among laboratories. Tree Physiology 35:1146-1165. doi:10.1093/treephys/tpv073
Anderegg WRL, et al. 2015. Tree mortality from drought, insects, and their interactions in a changing climate. New Phytologist 208: 674–683. doi: 10.1111/nph.13477. Faculty of 1000 Biology.
Hood S, Sala A, Heyerdahl EK, Boutin M. 2015. Low-severity fire increases tree defense against bark beetle attacks. Ecology 96: 1846-1855. doi: 10.1890/14-0487.1. Presented to US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources testimony. May 2016, Washington D.C.
Sala A, Mencuccini M. 2014. Plumb trees win under drought. Nature Climate Change 4:666-667.
Dietze M, Sala A, Carbone M, Czimczik C, Mantooth JA, Richardson AD, Vargas R. 2014. Nonstructural Carbon in Woody Plants. Annual Review of Plant Biology 65:667–87
Palacio S, Hoch G, Sala A, Körner C, Millard P. 2014. Does carbon storage limit tree growth? 2014. New Phytologist 201: 1096–1100.
Sala A. Hopping K, McIntire EJB, Delzon S, Crone EE. 2012. Masting in whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) depletes stored nutrients. New Phytologist 196: 189–199. Faculty of 1000 Biology.
Sala A, Woodruff DW, Meinzer FR. 2012. Carbon dynamics in trees: feast or famine? Tree Physiology 32: 764-775.
Keeling EG, Sala A. 2012. Changing growth response to wildfire in old-growth ponderosa pine trees in montane forests of North Central Idaho. Global Change Biology 18:1117-1126.
Lloret F, Keeling EG. Sala A. 2011. Components of tree resilience: effects of successive low-growth episodes in old ponderosa pine forests. Oikos 120:1909-1920.
Delzon S, Douthe C, Sala A, Cochard H. 2010. Mechanism of water-stress induced cavitation in conifers: bordered pit structure and function support the hypothesis of seal capillary-seeding. Plant, Cell and Environment 33:2101-2111.
Gremer JR, Sala A, Crone EE. 2010. Disappearing plants: why they hide and how they return. Ecology 91: 3407-3413.
Naficy CE, Sala A, Keeling EG, Graham, J, Deluca TH. 2010. Strong effects of historical logging: fire exclusion alone does not explain contemporary forest structure. Ecological Applications. 20: 1851-1864.
Sala A, Piper F, Hoch G. 2010. Physiological mechanisms of drought-induced tree mortality are far from being resolved. New Phytologist 186:274-281. Selected for the 200 Anniversary Issue of New Phytologist.
Crone EE, Miller E, Sala A. 2009. How do plants know when other plants are flowering? Resource depletion, pollen limitation and mast-seeding in a perennial wildflower. Ecology Letters 11:1119-26. Science Editor Choice (Nov. 27, 2009). Faculty of 1000 Biology.
Sala A. 2009. Lack of direct evidence for the carbon-starvation hypothesis to explain drought-induced mortality in trees. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 106 (26) E68. doi:10.1073/pnas.0904580106
Sala A, Hoch G. 2009. Height-related growth declines in ponderosa pine are not due to carbon limitation. Plant, Cell and Environment. 32:22-30. Faculty of 1000 Biology.
DeLuca TH, Sala A. 2006. Frequent fire alters nitrogen transformations in natural Ponderosa Pine stands of the Inland Northwest. Ecology 87: 2511-2522.
Sala A. 2006. Hydraulic compensation in Northern Rocky Mountain conifers: does successional position and life history matter? Oecologia 149:1-11.
Sala A, Peters GD, McIntyre LR, Harrington MG. 2005. Physiological responses of ponderosa pine in western Montana to thinning, prescribed burning, and burning season. Tree Physiology 25:339-348.
Martínez-Vilalta J, Sala A, Piñol J. 2004. The hydraulic architecture of Pinaceae. Plant Ecology 171: 3-13.
Stout DL, Sala A 2003. Xylem vulnerability to cavitation in Pseudotsuga menziesii and Pinus ponderosa from contrasting habitats. Tree Physiology 23:43-50.
Sexton JP, McKay JK, Sala A. 2002. Plasticity and adaptive evolution may allow saltcedar to invade cold climates in North America. Ecological Applications 12:1652-1660.
Mckay JK, Bishop JG, Jing-Zhong L, Richards JH, Sala A, Mitchell-Olds T. 2001. Local adaptation to climate despite small effective population size in the rare Sapphire Rockcress. Proceedings of the Royal Society. Biological Series 268:1-7.
Sala A, Carey EV, Keane RE, Callaway RM. 2001. Water use by whitebark pine and subalpine fir: consequences of fire suppression in subalpine forests. Tree Physiology 21:717-725.
Carey EV, Sala A, Keane RB, Callaway RM. 2001. Are old growth forests underestimated as global carbon sinks? Global Change Biology 7:339-344.
Sala A, Carey EV, Callaway RM. 2001. Dwarf Mistletoe affects whole tree water relations of Douglas-fir and western larch primarily through changes in biomass allocation. Oecologia 126:42-52.
Piñol J, Sala A. 2000. Ecological implications of xylem embolism of several Pinaceae of NW United States. Functional Ecology 14:538-545.
Sala A, Smith SD, Devitt DA. 1996. Water use by Tamarix ramosissima and associated phreatophytes in a Mojave Desert floodplain. Ecological Applications 6: 888-898.
Sala A, Tenhunen JD. 1996. Simulation of net canopy photosynthesis and transpiration in Quercus ilex L. under the influence of seasonal drought. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 78: 203-222.
Sala A, Tenhunen JD. 1994. Site-specific stomatal response and water relations in Quercus ilex in a Mediterranean watershed. Tree Physiology 14: 601-617.
Sala A, Sabaté S, Gracia C, Tenhunen J.D. 1994. Canopy structure within a Quercus ilex forested watershed: variations due to location, phenological development, and water availability. Trees 8: 254-261.
Tenhunen JD, Sala Serra A, Harley PC, Reynolds JF, Dougherty RL. 1990. Factors influencing carbon fixation and water use by Mediterranean sclerophyll shrubs during summer drought. Oecologia 82: 381-393.
Division of Biological Sciences
Area of Expertise
Plant Biology; Plant Responses to the Environment with Emphasis on Trees; Tree Responses to Fire; Tree-Bark Beetle Interactions