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Biology professor and student publish biodiversity paper

Dr. Diggs and Hannah Umstead
Dr. Tom Diggs, assistant professor of plant biology at the University of North Georgia (UNG), and Hannah Umstead, who is pursuing a degree in biology, look at the backs of autumn fern leaves, the plant that is the focus of their research paper.

Dr. Tom Diggs, assistant professor of plant biology at the University of North Georgia (UNG), and Hannah Umstead, who is pursuing a degree in biology, had a paper published in "American Fern Journal" in December 2018.

The paper discussed how climate conditions and invasive species, such as the autumn fern, can wreak havoc on native biodiversity.

"We hope by publishing this research, we make scientists and horticulturists aware that this plant is establishing itself on our landscape and could have deleterious effects on the native biodiversity of our area," said Umstead, a sophomore from Tucker, Georgia. "We hope that this awareness will lead to more frequent choices to plant Southeastern native species rather than exotic and potentially invasive ones in large- and small-scale landscaping projects."

A native to Japan, Korea and China, the autumn fern is sold across the country in hardware stores, nurseries and home and garden centers. It is often used in commercial landscaping.

Because of the influx of these plants, researchers are perturbed by the potential effect they will have if they escape cultivation. This causes Diggs, who has worked at UNG for four years, concern.

"Given changing climatic conditions due to global climate change, we will likely see more exotic species becoming invasive in our area in the future," he said.

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