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School of Geography

F. Coelho de Souza F. Coelho de Souza

Contact details

Room 10.15
School of Geography
University of Leeds
University Road
Leeds LS2 9JT   UK


+44 (0) 113 34 33345

The evolution of carbon in tropical forests, integrating ecology and an evolutionary approach.

Tropical rain forests play an important role in the global carbon cycle. Within this biome there is a wide range of life-history strategies from fast growing to shade tolerant species, storing different amounts of carbon in their biomass. As along this continuum, different groups of species vary in their ability to process and store carbon. Thus, changes in forest structure and composition may cause the release of a large amount of carbon to the atmosphere, accelerating the process of climate change. With the increase of phylogenetic and trait data available, a direct approach to investigate past, current and potentially predict the future of the global carbon cycle is to integrate ecology and evolutionary relationships among species. Although several studies were conducted to address plant effects on global carbon cycle, they focus on current species composition and their respective traits. However, variation in traits associated to the ability to store and process carbon arose in an evolutionary scale. Hence, we aim to integrate ecology and evolutionary approach to understand the processes underlying the evolution of the carbon cycling in tropical forests.


The research questions guiding the present research project are:

  • To what extent are traits associated with carbon processing and storage phylogenetically conserved?
  • Is phylogenetic diversity a good predictor for carbon stocks and productivity?
  • Are the traits associated with carbon storage and processing relevant to the mechanisms that underlie community assembly?
  • Can evolutionary history be used to predict increases and decreases in species abundance under current environmental change?


Dr Tim Baker
Prof Oliver Phillips
Kyle Dexter

Research affiliations


CAPES studentship - coordination for the improvement of higher education - Brazil