Professor of Global Change Science at University of Leeds and, UCL

Simon L. Lewis is Professor of Global Change Science at University College London and the University of Leeds. Simon was a Royal Society University Research Fellow (2004-2013), and in 2011 received a Philip Leverhulme Prize recognising the international impact of his research. In 2014 he was listed as one of the world’s most highly cited scientists in the Environment/Ecology field (see He gained a PhD from the University of Cambridge studying in the Department of Plant Sciences.

Simon is a plant ecologist by training with a central focus on the tropics and global environmental change including climate change. His primary interest is in how humans are changing the Earth as a system. This is because one of the key issues facing humanity in the 21st century will be to address how a population of at least 8 billion can lead fulfilled lives without breaching environmental thresholds that may cause serious social, economic and environmental disruption, or even more severe outcomes.

The more specific focus of his research is to gain a synthetic understanding of the recent, current, and likely future compositional and functional trajectory of the tropical forest biome. That is, to understand how and why tropical forests are composed of the tree species that form these forests, understand their important functions, such as how much carbon they store and cycle, and understand how these systems are changing due to local, regional and global environmental changes, and ultimately how they may change in the future.

Professor Lewis has published 10 book chapters, 3 major databases and 95 peer-reviewed papers in leading journals, including in Science, Nature and the world’s oldest ongoing scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. His work as been cited over 15,000 times.

Simon founded and co-ordinates the only African network of on-the-ground tropical forests monitoring plots where individual trees are tagged and monitored over time, called AfriTRON (African Tropical Rainforest Observation Network). This requires extensive fieldwork in very remote locations. AfriTRON currently spans 10 countries across tropical Africa, and with its sister network in South America (RAINFOR) consists of >500 locations and >300,000 trees being monitored. They are housed in a data repository, co-founded by Dr Lewis, at

Professor Lewis’ research on tropical forests and climate change has been covered by newspapers, TV and radio worldwide, including the BBC, CNN and the Sun newspaper. He is regularly asked for comment on tropical forest and climate change related science.

Simon's research intersects several policy relevant areas, including tropical forests and their deforestation and degradation, climate change, biodiversity conservation, the prospects for indigenous peoples, rural poverty, and the global trade systems for products from tropical lands. Therefore, he is involved in both public understanding of science activities, such as writing newspaper commentary and giving public talks, and engages with policy makers.


  • –present
    Reader in Global Change Science, UCL