Debra P. C. Peters


Ecologist/Adjunct Associate Professor

Lead Principal Investigator, Jornada Basin Long Term Ecological Research Project

Co-Principal Investigator, Sevilleta Long Term Ecological Research Project

Lead research scientist, USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range


Box 30003 MSC 3JER, NMSU

Las Cruces, NM 88003-0003


ECOTONE modeling website:                            

USDA-ARS, Jornada Experimental Range website:        

Jornada Basin LTER website:                                        

Sevilleta LTER website:                                                  


BS       Biology             Iowa State University

MS      Biology             San Diego State University

Ph.D.   Range Science              Colorado State University

Postdoctoral work:                   Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University


Research interests: Landscape ecology, Ecosystem modeling, Cross-scale interactions and feedbacks


Research program


My research focuses on understanding and predicting the dynamics of arid and semiarid systems across a range of spatial and temporal scales. Much of my research involves interactions within and among various species of grasses and shrubs with a focus on extrapolating patterns and processes across scales, from individual plants to patches, landscapes, and regions. Current projects include (1) the examination of spatial variation in shrub invasion and grass persistence, (2) the study of ecotones and biotic transitions at multiple scales, (3) predicting nonlinear spatial dynamics of cascading systems, (4) using cross-site studies to generalize processes and patterns, and (5) integrating process-based experiments with simulation models (ECOTONE), geographic information systems (GIS), and remote sensed images. Research is conducted at a number of sites in Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas with most studies occurring at the Jornada Basin Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site in southern NM and the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge LTER site in central NM. Collaborative research is being conducted at three sites in Hungary.


Funding may be available to support graduate students through the Jornada Basin LTER or other sources.


Representative Publications


Peters, D. P. C. and R. P. Gibbens. Plant communities in the Jornada Basin: the dynamic landscape. Pages 000-000 In: K. M. Havstad, W. H. Schlesinger, and L. F. Huenneke, eds. Structure and function of a Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem: the Jornada Basin LTER. Oxford University Press (in press).


Peters, D. P. C., J. R. Gosz, W. T. Pockman, E. E. Small, R. R. Parmenter, and S. L. Collins. Understanding biotic transitions at multiple scales: integrating patch dynamics with ecotone theory. BioScience (in review).


Peters, D. P. C., W. H. Schlesinger, J. E. Herrick, L. F. Huenneke, and K. M. Havstad. Future directions in Jornada research: developing and applying an interactive landscape model to solve old and new problems. Pages 000-000 In: K. M. Havstad, W. H. Schlesinger, and L. F. Huenneke, eds. Structure and function of a Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem: the Jornada Basin LTER. Oxford University Press (in press).


Peters, D. P. C., D. L. Urban, R. H. Gardner, D. D. Breshears, and J. E. Herrick. Strategies for ecological extrapolation. Oikos (in press).


Peters, D. P. C., J. Yao, L. F. Huenneke, K. M. Havstad, J. E. Herrick, A. Rango, and W. H. Schlesinger. A framework and methods for simplifying complex landscapes to reduce uncertainty in predictions. Pages 000-000. In: J. Wu, B. Jones, and O. L. Loucks, eds. Scaling and uncertainty analysis in ecology (in press).


Symstad, A.J., F.S. Chapin, D.H. Wall, K.L. Gross, L.F. Huenneke, G.G. Mittelbach, D.P.C. Peters, and G.D. Tilman. 2003. Long-term perspectives on biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships. BioScience 53:89-98.                                                                                      


Rastetter, E.B., J.D. Aber, D.P.C. Peters, and D.S. Ojima. 2003. Using mechanistic models to scale ecological processes across space and time. BioScience 53:1-9.


Peters, D. P. C. 2002. Recruitment potential of two perennial grasses with different growth forms at a semiarid-arid ecotone. American Journal Botany 89: 1616-1623.


Peters, D.P.C. 2002. Plant species dominance at a grassland-shrubland ecotone: an individual-based gap dynamics model of herbaceous and woody species. Ecological Modelling 152(1): 5-32.


Peters, D.P.C., and J.E. Herrick. 2001. Modelling Vegetation Change and Land Degradation in Semiarid and Arid Ecosystems: An Integrated Hierarchical Approach. Advances in Environmental Monitoring and Modelling (


Gosz, J. R., D. P. C. Peters, M. Kertész, E. Kovács-Láng, Gy. Kröel-Dulay, and S. Bartha. 2000. Organization of grasslands along ecological gradients: U.S.-Hungarian LTER grassland cooperation. Pp67-78 In: K. Lajtha and K. Vanderbilt, eds. Proceedings of the ILTER Regional Workshop. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, OR.

Research is conducted primarily at two LTER sites:


(a)    the Jornada Basin LTER and ARS site in southern NM (north of Las Cruces)


















(b)   the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge LTER site in central NM (south of Albuquerque).