Supervisor: Dr C E Timothy Paine
Start Date: 1st October 2015
3A124C Cottrell Building
Biological & Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling
Stirling, Scotland, FK9 4LA
Tel: +44 (0)1786 466544
fax: +(44) 1786 467843
The determinants of tree species distribution in tropical forests
The broad objective of my study is to find answers to some fundamental questions in ecology concerning mechanisms of tree species distributions along environmental gradients: Why do species live where they do? What causes associations with specific habitats? What causes changes in species composition across landscapes?
My study area is Paracou Research Station, French Guiana. Paracou is one of the best studied lowland tropical forests in the Guiana Shield region, with high tree species diversity and census data accumulated over 35 years making it ideal to study forest dynamics.
I aim to quantify the tolerance limits of a number of tropical tree species to multiple co-occurring stresses (shade, drought, and waterlogging) to investigate associations between seedling performance and field distribution. The aim is to simulate extreme resource stress events that are likely to cause differential mortality. These data will be used to test theories of niche differentiation among tropical tree species. The proposed research has been designed to complement an existing dataset on the morphological and ecophysiological trait responses of a large number of species under controlled gradients of shade and water stress. These datasets will be combined with long-term forest plot data on saplings and adult trees of Paracou, to make predictions of species distributions. This research is an exciting opportunity to enrich our understanding of the mechanisms of species distributions and to utilise pre-existing datasets.