Research

Current projects

Long-term shifts in plant trait distributions 

Tagged trees in San Emilio, Santa Rosa National Park, Costa Rica.

One of the most prevalent threats faced by tropical forests is the risk of longer and more intense drought events. Our knowledge of how tropical dry forests will respond to climate changes, however, remains scarce due to limited long-term data in these ecosystems. Using a theoretical framework called Trait Driver Theory, and long-term data in one of the oldest forest dynamic plot in Neotropical dry forests, I am evaluating how climate change may drive shifts in trait distributions, and whether these shifts influence overall erformance of tree species and ecosystem functioning.

 

 

Airborne remote sensing of functional diversity

Airborne remote sensing has been used to assess forest extent, and map the chemical diversity across different scales, but estimations of other diversity components such as functional diversity remains a challenge, specifically in hyper diverse systems such as tropical forests. I am assessing the potential of airborne imaging to quantify functional diversity of tree communities, and whether remotely-sensed indices can be used to answer ecological questions related to community assembly and linkages of traits and productivity.  I am using remotely-sensed traits across a broad Amazon–to–Andes elevation gradient (215–3537 m) in nine 1-hectare sites in southern Peru.

Spatial patterns of remotely-sensed functional divergence (FDiv) along elevation. Plots are organized from lower to higher elevation.

 

 

Predicting plant functional traits from leaf reflectance

I am using leaf-level reflectance paired with field trait data to assess whether leaf spectroscopy is able to predict plant traits related with carbon acquisition, photosynthesis, water use efficiency and leaf temperature across terrestrial ecosystems. Specifically, this study will use data from a tropical dry forest, a rainforest mesocosm, and alpine meadows.

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Using hyperspectral imaging to understand plant responses to temperature

Climate change is expected to disproportionately impact alpine plant communities by disrupting current temperature and precipitation regimes, and alter rates of photosynthesis and respiration. This project focuses on i) evaluating whether plant traits derived from hyperspectral imaging are strong predictors of carbon fluxes in alpine meadows, ii) assessing the effect of experimental early snowmelt on leaf optical properties of alpine plants, and iii) examine how trait variation can be scaled up to predict how shifts in temperature will influence trait composition and carbon fluxes of alpine meadows. To answer these questions, I collected reflectance at three spatial scales in each plot (1.3 m² n=38) paired with field trait data along the elevation gradient. Carbon fluxes were measured per plot at day and night in  two periods along the growing season.

 

 

 

 

Collaborative research

Ecology and tree dynamics of secondary forests

cropped-paisaje_cafetero2.jpgSecondary forests are becoming increasingly dominant in tropical regions, but our understanding of how these ecosystems recover their diversity and ecosystem processes is still limited. I am part of a collaborative research network called 2ndFor, which comprises more than 70 researchers working at > 50 study sites in Latin America focused on ecology, dynamics and biodiversity of secondary forests.

 

 

 

Tropical dry forests

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Tropical dry forests (TDFs) continue to be under threat due to deforestation and agricultural expansion, but our understanding on how dry forests recover their diversity and ecosystem processes is still limited.  Using data from long-term plots in the Americas in second-growth forests, I work with colleagues from the Tropi-Dry network to understand the recovery of woody plant diversity and biomass carbon. 

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