My long-term research goal is to understand the dynamics of carbon and biodiversity across the world’s tropical forests, how these change with our changing climate, and how they may feedback on the whole planet.
The scale of the endeavour is large, requiring global team-work and a multidisciplinary approach. I personally lead a team of more than 100 researchers in Leeds, across South America, and elsewhere, to understand the behaviour of Amazonian forests in the changing earth system.
Because tropical forests are so productive and still occupy a relatively large portion of the planet's surface, small differences in their carbon balance can have a significant impact on slowing, or accelerating, the rate of global climate change. They also harbour half the species on earth, so it is also vitally important to understand how the diversity of these forests is impacted by global atmospheric and climate change and how such changes in the ecological function of these forests in turn affect the carbon cycle. I am leading long-term monitoring in Amazonia that has been tracking forest dynamics, biomass, and biodiversity for 25 years, with colleagues this work now spans 130 sites across Amazonia (the RAINFOR project). In this era of unprecedented environmental change, our goals are to integrate ecosystem and community ecology perspectives to understand how, where and why ecological processes and biodiversity are changing in apparently "intact" forests.