Norman L. Christensen

Professor Emeritus in the Division of Environmental Sciences & Policy

A316 LSRC, Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
Box 90329, Durham, NC 27708-0329
(919) 613-8052
Christensen's research focuses on the effects of disturbance on structure and function of populations, communities and ecosystems. On going studies include an analysis of patterns of forest development following cropland abandonment as these are affected by environment, stand history and plant demographic patterns. He and his students are pursuing comparative studies of ecosystem responses to varying fire regimes across temperate North America. He is conducting research on the utilization of remote sensing systems such as synthetic aperture radar to evaluate long-term changes in forest ecosystems. In addition to these interests in basic ecological science, Christensen has written widely on the importance of natural disturbance in the management of forests, shrublands, and wetlands. He is interested in the application of basic ecological theory and models to management, and has collaborated with others in the development of the concept of ecosystem management.


  • Ph.D., University of California at Santa Barbara 1973

  • M.A., California State University at Fresno 1970

  • B.A., California State University at Fresno 1968

Peet, RK, Christensen, NL, and Gilliam, FS. "Temporal Patterns in Herbaceous Layer Communities of the North Carolina Piedmont." In The Herbaceous Layer in Forests of Eastern North America. April 3, 2014. Full Text

Christensen, NL. "Shrubland Fire Regimes and Their Evolutionary Consequences." In The Ecology of Natural Disturbance and Patch Dynamics, 85-100. January 1, 2013. Full Text

Christensen, NL. "Environmental leadership as a practice." In Environmental Leadership: A Reference Handbook, 11-16. January 1, 2012. Full Text

Adeney, JM, Christensen, NL, Vicentini, A, and Cohn-Haft, M. "White-sand Ecosystems in Amazonia." Edited by P Fine. Biotropica 48, no. 1 (January 2016): 7-23. Full Text

Mitchell, S, Palmquist, K, Cohen, S, and Christensen, NL. "Patterns of vegetation composition and diversity in pine-dominated ecosystems of the Outer Coastal Plain of North Carolina: Implications for ecosystem restoration." Forest Ecology and Management 356 (November 2015): 64-73. Full Text

Stambaugh, MC, Varner, JM, Noss, RF, Dey, DC, Christensen, NL, Baldwin, RF, Guyette, RP, Hanberry, BB, Harper, CA, Lindblom, SG, and Waldrop, TA. "Clarifying the role of fire in the deciduous forests of eastern North America: reply to Matlack." Conservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology 29, no. 3 (June 2015): 942-946. Full Text

Smart, LS, Swenson, JJ, Christensen, NL, and Sexton, JO. "Three-dimensional characterization of pine forest type and red-cockaded woodpecker habitat by small-footprint, discrete-return lidar." Forest Ecology and Management 281 (2012): 100-110. Full Text

Jr, NLC. "The road to sustainable development and conservation." Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9, no. 2 (2011): 134-135. Full Text

Karanth, KK, Nichols, JD, Karanth, KU, Hines, JE, and Christensen, NL. "The shrinking ark: patterns of large mammal extinctions in India." Proc Biol Sci 277, no. 1690 (July 7, 2010): 1971-1979. Full Text

Fesenmyer, KA, and Christensen, NL. "Reconstructing Holocene fire history in a southern Appalachian forest using soil charcoal." Ecology 91, no. 3 (March 2010): 662-670.

Fesenmyer, KA, and Christensen, NL. "Fire History in Southern Appalachian Forests Using Soil Charcoal (Accepted)." Ecol (2010). (Academic Article)

Conde, DA, Colchero, F, Zarza, H, Christensen, NL, Sexton, JO, Manterola, C, Chávez, C, Rivera, A, Azuara, D, and Ceballos, G. "Sex matters: Modeling male and female habitat differences for jaguar conservation." Biological Conservation 143, no. 9 (2010): 1980-1988. Full Text


Selected Grants

Forest Management, Species Habitat, and Implications for Carbon Flux and Storage awarded by Research Triangle Institute (Principal Investigator). 2012 to 2017

Fire History Among Southern Appalachian Forest Types awarded by Department of Agriculture (Principal Investigator). 2004 to 2006

Monitoring and modeling the response of coastal ecosystems and carbon storage to rising sea level awarded by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Principal Investigator). 2002 to 2005

Tracing Carbon in Elevated CO2 Experiments: A Workshop for David Ellsworth awarded by Department of Energy (Principal Investigator). 2001 to 2002

(97-0486) Landscape History and Ecosystem Change-A Proposal for a Workshop awarded by Forest Service (Principal Investigator). 1997 to 2001

(95-0651) Establishing a Mobile Gas-exchange and Emission Research Facility awarded by Office of Science & Technology Infrastructure (Principal Investigator). 1995 to 1999

(98-0042) Analysis of SIR-C/X-SAR Data awarded by Jet Propulsion Lab (Principal Investigator). 1990 to 1998

(97-0904) Cooperation in the Geological and Environmental Sciences - Laura Pyle awarded by U.S. Geological Survey (Principal Investigator). 1997

(97-0905) Cooperation in the Geological and Environmental Sciences - Gary Dwyer awarded by U.S. Geological Survey (Principal Investigator). 1997

(95-0582) Analysis of SIR-C/X-SAR Data awarded by Jet Propulsion Lab (Principal Investigator). 1990 to 1997