I am a postdoctoral researcher interested in past, present and future functioning of tropical forests. I am currently employed through my Rubicon grant at IBED and seconded to Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), and at Wageningen University and Research (WUR).
Tropical forests are not in steady state but are shifting in species composition, possibly due to changes in climate and human influence. This may have large consequences for their biodiversity and the ecosystem services they provide. A better understanding of forest responses can be obtained from evaluating shifts in the trait values of the tree species in the forest, as these shifts depend on underlying environmental changes. However, the power of empirical studies is limited by their short timescale. In this Rubicon (NWO-funded postdoctoral grant) project, I will collaborate with Florida Institute of Technology to apply the functional trait approach to fossil pollen records that reveal millennia-scale vegetation dynamics. Using this approach, we will evaluate long-term shifts in trait composition and possible underlying drivers of change – climate change and human activities. Applying such a functional approach on pollen data can significantly advance our understanding of drivers and trajectories of past, present and future forest composition, biodiversity and carbon sequestration.
Secondary tropical forests cover large areas and have great potential to recover biodiversity, carbon, and other ecosystem functions. The key challenge is to understand the resilience of these forests, and how this depends on forest attributes and environmental and anthropogenic drivers from local to continental spatial scales. I am parttime employed at Wageningen University and Research to work within the secondary Neotropical forest network "2ndFor". This network combines almost 60 sites that evaluate forest recovery using chronosequences. Most sites have, however, poor quantification of the soil conditions, and a limited description of historical land use. My role in this project will be to coordinate the collection and analyses of soil samples and land-use history (through interviews and remote sensing) for as many sites as possible. Using this information, we can better understand how i) soil recovers during forest regrowth, ii) how soil conditions influence forest regrowth, and iii) how land-use history determines the coarse of forest succession. This information will help to understand the context-dependence of forest recovery and, hence, recovery of ecosystem functions.