Kyra Prats

Ph.D. student, Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies / New York Botancal Garden


Ecophysiology of ferns


Ferns are often underappreciated members of forested ecosystems, and, historically, little attention has been given to fern physiology, ecology, and evolution, despite their being the second-most diverse group of land plants. While ferns are no longer the dominant vegetation in forested ecosystems today, they once were and they have persisted and thrived for over 400 million years in diverse ecological conditions, including deserts, temperate forests, and tropical forest canopies. Relatively little is known about the fundamental relationships between fern structure and physiological function. Given their position on the plant phylogeny, how ferns regulate transpiration and photosynthesis has important implications for our understanding of the physiological evolution of all land plants. The overarching question of my research is how have ferns remained competitive despite a range of anatomical and physiological constraints that put them at a significant disadvantage compared to other vascular plants? I am addressing this question from multiple scales in my dissertation work, spanning from one species to the entire phylogeny.

Selected Publication

Prats, K. A., C. R. Brodersen, and M. S. Ashton. 2019. Influence of dry season on Quercus suber L. leaf traits in the Iberian Peninsula. American Journal of Botany 106.5 (2019): 656-666. DOI: 10.1002/ajb2.1280