The challenge- Tropical forests are global hotspots of biodiversity, play key roles in the global carbon and water cycle and deliver crucial ecosystem services but are threatened by human-induced climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss. I focus on forests that regrow after complete forest removal for agriculture (secondary forests), because they cover large areas, have great potential to recover biodiversity and carbon, and are the basis for ecosystem restoration. The key challenge is to understand and predict forest resilience: when, and under what conditions are regrowing forests able to recover and have the same quality and functioning as old-growth forests?
Aims- This study aims to understand and predict the resilience of tropical forests to human-driven disturbance by analyzing the effects of (1) continent and biogeography, (2) climate, (3) landscape, and (4) biodiversity on forest recovery rate.
Approach- I will use a pantropical approach by synthesizing current data and doing controlled experiments on three continents (Neotropics, Africa, and Australia) in climatically contrasting forest types (dry and wet forest). I will (1) assess long-term multidimensional resilience by expanding a unique Neotropical network of 60 sites to the pantropics, (2) analyse the role of the landscape on forest recovery by doing a natural experiment along forest cover gradients, (3) understand how different kinds of diversity affect succession and ecosystem functioning through a biodiversity removal experiment.
Impact- This study addresses key questions in ecology and advances our understanding how human-driven climate change, landscape degradation, and biodiversity loss affect forest resilience and succession. The insights can be applied to (1) reduce human impacts on tropical forests, (2) design resilient and multifunctional tropical landscapes, and (3) design effective forest restoration strategies.