Lead Scientist, North America
Joe Fargione, lead scientist, The Nature Conservancy in North America Lead Scientist, North America ©; Joe Fargione

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Joe Fargione

Lead Scientist, North America



Joe Fargione is science director for The Nature Conservancy’s North America Region. Joe’s research seeks ways to balance human energy and food demands with environmental conservation. Solutions include appropriate siting of new energy development and new sources for conservation funding including compensatory mitigation payments, carbon offsets, and creating markets that value nature’s benefits.

Current projects include 1) analyzing the potential impacts from land and water use by energy development, including oil and gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing; 2) land use modeling to inform policies and conservation investments to achieve multiple benefits, for both nature and people; 3) developing methods to quantify the avoided CO2 emissions from protecting grasslands that are at risk of conversion to cropland; and 4) updating conservation planning methods to increase the effectiveness and scale of conservation projects. 

Prior to joining The Nature Conservancy, Joe received a bachelor’s degree from Hampshire College, a PhD in Ecology from the University of Minnesota and held faculty positions at the University of New Mexico and Purdue University. Joe’s dozens of scientific publications have been cited thousands of times and have generated national media coverage, including by NBC Nightly News, Time Magazine, The New York Times, and The Onion, among others. Joe is a native of Minneapolis, MN, where he resides with his wife and children.

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Is Nature in Trouble in the United States?
A new study from Nature Conservancy scientists ups the ante for funding conservation efforts.

Win-Win for Wind and Wildlife
Authored by Conservancy Scientists Kiesecker, Fargione and Evans, in addition to a handful of others, the ‘Win-Win for Wind’ report could serve as a road-map for renewable energy development.


Wing, O.E.J., Bates, P.D., Smith, A.M., Sampson, C.C., Johnson, K.A., Fargione, F. & Morefield, P. (2018). Estimates of present and future flood risk in the conterminous United States. Environ. Res. Lett., 13, 034023.


Armsworth, P.R., Jackson, H.B., Cho, S.-H., Clark, M., Fargione, J.E., Iacona, G.D., Kim, T., Larson, E.R., Minney, T. & Sutton, N.A. (2017). Factoring economic costs into conservation planning may not improve agreement over priorities for protection. Nature Communications, 8, 2253.

Fargione, J. (2017). An expanding footprint. Nature Energy, 2, 770.

Griscom, B.W., Adams, J., Ellis, P.W., Houghton, R.A., Lomax, G., Miteva, D.A., Schlesinger, W.H., Shoch, D., Siikamäki, J.V., Smith, P., Woodbury, P., Zganjar, C., Blackman, A., Campari, J., Conant, R.T., Delgado, C., Elias, P., Gopalakrishna, T., Hamsik, M.R., Herrero, M., Kiesecker, J., Landis, E., Laestadius, L., Leavitt, S.M., Minnemeyer, S., Polasky, S., Potapov, P., Putz, F.E., Sanderman, J., Silvius, M., Wollenberg, E. & Fargione, J. (2017). Natural climate solutions. PNAS, 201710465.

Kiesecker, J.M., Evans, J.S., Sochi, K., Fargione, J., Naugle, D. & Doherty, K. (2017). Win-win for wind and wildlife. In: Energy Sprawl Solutions: Balancing Global Development and Conservation (eds. Kiesecker, J.M. & Naugle, D.E.). Island Press, pp. 53–66.

Lennox, G.D., Fargione, J., Spector, S., Williams, G. & Armsworth, P.R. (2017). The value of flexibility in conservation financing. Conservation Biology, 31, 666–674.

Maloney, K.O., Baruch-Mordo, S., Patterson, L.A., Nicot, J.-P., Entrekin, S.A., Fargione, J.E., Kiesecker, J.M., Konschnik, K.E., Ryan, J.N., Trainor, A.M., Saiers, J.E. & Wiseman, H.J. (2017). Unconventional oil and gas spills: Materials, volumes, and risks to surface waters in four states of the U.S. Science of The Total Environment, 581–582, 369–377.

Odadi, W.O., Fargione, J. & Rubenstein, D.I. (2017). Vegetation, Wildlife, and Livestock Responses to Planned Grazing Management in an African Pastoral Landscape. Land Degrad. Develop.

Patterson, L.A., Konschnik, K.E., Wiseman, H., Fargione, J., Maloney, K.O., Kiesecker, J., Nicot, J.-P., Baruch-Mordo, S., Entrekin, S., Trainor, A. & Saiers, J.E. (2017). Unconventional Oil and Gas Spills: Risks, Mitigation Priorities, and State Reporting Requirements. Environ. Sci. Technol.


Ahlering, M., Fargione, J. & Parton, W. (2016). Potential carbon dioxide emission reductions from avoided grassland conversion in the northern Great Plains. Ecosphere, 7, e01625.

Barnett, A., Fargione, J. & Smith, M.P. (2016). Mapping Trade-Offs in Ecosystem Services from Reforestation in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. BioScience, 66, 223–237.

Trainor, A.M., McDonald, R.I. & Fargione, J. (2016). Energy sprawl is the largest driver of land use change in United States. PLOS ONE, 11, e0162269.


Creutzig, F., Ravindranath, N.H., Berndes, G., Bolwig, S., Bright, R., Cherubini, F., Chum, H., Corbera, E., Delucchi, M., Faaij, A., Fargione, J., Haberl, H., Heath, G., Lucon, O., Plevin, R., Popp, A., Robledo-Abad, C., Rose, S., Smith, P., Stromman, A., Suh, S. & Masera, O. (2015). Bioenergy and climate change mitigation: an assessment. GCB Bioenergy, 7, 916–944.

Jungers, J.M., Sheaffer, C.C., Fargione, J. & Lehman, C. (2015). Short-term harvesting of biomass from conservation grasslands maintains plant diversity. GCB Bioenergy, 7, 1050–1061.


Banerjee, S., Secchi, S., Fargione, J., Polasky, S. & Kraft, S. (2013). How to sell ecosystem services: a guide for designing new markets. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 11, 297–304.

Craine, J.M., Ocheltree, T.W., Nippert, J.B., Towne, E.G., Skibbe, A.M., Kembel, S.W. & Fargione, J.E. (2013). Global diversity of drought tolerance and grassland climate-change resilience. Nature Clim. Change, 3, 63–67.

Jungers, J.M., Fargione, J.E., Sheaffer, C.C., Wyse, D.L. & Lehman, C. (2013). Energy potential of biomass from conservation grasslands in Minnesota, USA. PLoS ONE, 8, e61209.

Rowe, H.I., Fargione, J. & Holland, J.D. (2013). Prairie restorations can protect remnant tallgrass prairie plant communities. The American Midland Naturalist, 170, 26–38.


Fargione, J., Kiesecker, J., Slaats, M.J. & Olimb, S. (2012). Wind and wildlife in the Northern Great Plains: identifying low-impact areas for wind development. PLoS ONE, 7, e41468.

Gough, L., Gross, K.L., Cleland, E.E., Clark, C.M., Collins, S.L., Fargione, J.E., Pennings, S.C. & Suding, K.N. (2012). Incorporating clonal growth form clarifies the role of plant height in response to nitrogen addition. Oecologia, 169, 1053–1062.

McDonald, R.I., Olden, J.D., Opperman, J.J., Miller, W.M., Fargione, J., Revenga, C., Higgins, J.V. & Powell, J. (2012). Energy, water and fish: biodiversity impacts of energy-sector water demand in the United States depend on efficiency and policy measures. PLoS ONE, 7, e50219.


Cleland, E.E., Clark, C.M., Collins, S.L., Fargione, J.E., Gough, L., Gross, K.L., Pennings, S.C. & Suding, K.N. (2011). Patterns of trait convergence and divergence among native and exotic species in herbaceous plant communities are not modified by nitrogen enrichment. Journal of Ecology, 99, 1327–1338.

Fargione, J.E., Lehman, C. & Polasky, S. (2011). Entrepreneurs, chance, and the deterministic concentration of wealth. PLoS ONE, 6, e20728.

Kiesecker, J.M., Evans, J.S., Fargione, J., Doherty, K., Foresman, K.R., Kunz, T.H., Naugle, D., Nibbelink, N.P. & Niemuth, N.D. (2011). Win-win for wind and wildlife: a vision to facilitate sustainable development. PLoS ONE, 6, e17566.

Obermeyer, B., Manes, R., Kiesecker, J., Fargione, J. & Sochi, K. (2011). Development by Design: mitigating wind development’s impacts on wildlife in Kansas. PLoS ONE, 6, e26698.

Swaty, R., Blankenship, K., Hagen, S., Fargione, J., Smith, J. & Patton, J. (2011). Accounting for ecosystem alteration doubles estimates of conservation risk in the conterminous United States. PLoS ONE, 6, e23002.

Wiens, J., Fargione, J. & Hill, J. (2011). Biofuels and biodiversity. Ecological Applications, 21, 1085–1095.


Collins, S.L., Fargione, J.E., Crenshaw, C.L., Nonaka, E., Elliott, J.R., Xia, Y. & Pockman, W.T. (2010). Rapid plant community responses during the summer monsoon to nighttime warming in a northern Chihuahuan Desert grassland. Journal of Arid Environments, Land Surface Ecohydrology of the North American Monsoon System Ecohydrology of NAM - Special Issue, 74, 611–617.

Fargione, J.E., Plevin, R.J. & Hill, J.D. (2010). The ecological impact of biofuels. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 41, 351–377.


Fargione, J.E., Cooper, T.R., Flaspohler, D.J., Hill, J., Lehman, C., McCoy, T., McLeod, S., Nelson, E.J., Oberhauser, K.S. & Tilman, D. (2009). Bioenergy and wildlife: threats and opportunities for grassland conservation. BioScience, 59, 767–777.

McDonald, R.I., Fargione, J., Kiesecker, J., Miller, W.M. & Powell, J. (2009). Energy sprawl or energy efficiency: climate policy impacts on natural habitat for the United States of America. PLoS ONE, 4, e6802.

Opperman, J.J., Galloway, G.E., Fargione, J., Mount, J.F., Richter, B.D. & Secchi, S. (2009). Sustainable floodplains through large-scale reconnection to rivers. Science, 326, 1487–1488.

Ravindranath, N.H., Mauvie, R., Fargione, J., Canadell, J.G., Berndes, G., Woods, J., Watson, H. & Sathaye, J. (2009). Green house gas implications of land use and land conversion to biofuel crops. In: Biofuels: environmental consequences and interactions with changing land use, Proceedings of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) International Biofuels Project Rapid Assessment (eds. Howarth, R.W. & Bringezu, S.). SCOPE, pp. 111–125.


Cleland, E.E., Clark, C.M., Collins, S.L., Fargione, J.E., Gough, L., Gross, K.L., Milchunas, D.G., Pennings, S.C., Bowman, W.D., Burke, I.C., Lauenroth, W.K., Robertson, G.P., Simpson, J.C., Tilman, D. & Suding, K.N. (2008). Species responses to nitrogen fertilization in herbaceous plant communities, and associated species traits. Ecology, 89, 1175–1175.

Collins, S.L., Suding, K.N., Cleland, E.E., Batty, M., Pennings, S.C., Gross, K.L., Grace, J.B., Gough, L., Fargione, J.E. & Clark, C.M. (2008). Rank clocks and plant community dynamics. Ecology, 89, 3534–3541.

Dybzinski, R., Fargione, J.E., Zak, D.R., Fornara, D. & Tilman, D. (2008). Soil fertility increases with plant species diversity in a long-term biodiversity experiment. Oecologia, 158, 85–93.

Fargione, J., Hill, J., Tilman, D., Polasky, S. & Hawthorne, P. (2008). Land clearing and the biofuel carbon debt. Science, 319, 1235–1238.


Báez, S., Fargione, J., Moore, D.I., Collins, S.L. & Gosz, J.R. (2007). Atmospheric nitrogen deposition in the northern Chihuahuan desert: temporal trends and potential consequences. Journal of Arid Environments, 68, 640–651.

Clark, C.M., Cleland, E.E., Collins, S.L., Fargione, J.E., Gough, L., Gross, K.L., Pennings, S.C., Suding, K.N. & Grace, J.B. (2007). Environmental and plant community determinants of species loss following nitrogen enrichment. Ecology Letters, 10, 596–607.

Fargione, J., Tilman, D., Dybzinski, R., Lambers, J.H.R., Clark, C., Harpole, W.S., Knops, J.M.H., Reich, P.B. & Loreau, M. (2007). From selection to complementarity: shifts in the causes of biodiversity–productivity relationships in a long-term biodiversity experiment. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 274, 871–876.


Díaz, S., Fargione, J., Chapin, F.S., III & Tilman, D. (2006). Biodiversity loss threatens human well-being. PLoS Biol, 4, e277.

Fargione, J. & Tilman, D. (2006). Plant species traits and capacity for resource reduction predict yield and abundance under competition in nitrogen-limited grassland. Functional Ecology, 20, 533–540.


Craine, J.M., Fargione, J. & Sugita, S. (2005). Supply pre-emption, not concentration reduction, is the mechanism of competition for nutrients. New Phytologist, 166, 933–940.

Díaz, S., Tilman, D., Fargione, J., Chapin, F.S., Dirzo, R., Kitzberger, T., Gemmill, B., Zobel, M., Vilá, M., Mitchell, C., Wilby, A., Daily, G.C., Galetti, M., Laurance, W.F., Pretty, J., Naylor, R.L., Power, A. & Harvell, D. (2005). Biodiversity regulation of ecosystem services. In: Ecosystems and human well-being: current state and trends. Island Press, Washington, D.C., pp. 297–329.

Fargione, J.E. & Tilman, D. (2005). Diversity decreases invasion via both sampling and complementarity effects. Ecology Letters, 8, 604–611.

Fargione, J. & Tilman, D. (2005). Niche differences in phenology and rooting depth promote coexistence with a dominant C4 bunchgrass. Oecologia, 143, 598–606.


Neuhauser, C. & Fargione, J.E. (2004). A mutualism–parasitism continuum model and its application to plant–mycorrhizae interactions. Ecological Modelling, 177, 337–352.

Tilman, D., HilleRisLambers, J., Harpole, S., Dybzinski, R., Fargione, J., Clark, C. & Lehman, C. (2004). Does metabolic theory apply to community ecology? It’s a matter of scale. Ecology, 85, 1797–1799.


Craine, J.M., Reich, P.B., Tilman, D., Ellsworth, D., Fargione, J., Knops, J. & Naeem, S. (2003). The role of plant species in biomass production and response to elevated CO2 and N. Ecology Letters, 6, 623–625.

Fargione, J., Brown, C.S. & Tilman, D. (2003). Community assembly and invasion: An experimental test of neutral versus niche processes. PNAS, 100, 8916–8920. (Highlighted on Minnesota Public Radio and in BioScience)


Fargione, J. & Tilman, D. (2002). Competition and coexistence in terrestrial plants. In: Competition and coexistence, Ecological Studies. Springer, Berlin, pp. 165–206. 


Tilman, D., Fargione, J., Wolff, B., D’Antonio, C., Dobson, A., Howarth, R., Schindler, D., Schlesinger, W.H., Simberloff, D. & Swackhamer, D. (2001). Forecasting agriculturally driven global environmental change. Science, 292, 281–284. (Highlighted in Trends in Ecology & Evolution)