Speaker: Dr Alexander Shenkin, Post Doctoral Researcher, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford
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The grand complexity of tropical forests has attracted attention and admiration for centuries. The stature and diversity of their flora, perhaps their most conspicuous character, gives rise to complex and multi-layered structures that are often credited for the impressive function of these ecosystems, including their high productivity. As contemporary environmental change advances, the structure of these forests is expected to diminish. Will this diminish productivity? Perhaps. Yet, some tropical grasslands may be just as productive as their arboreal counterparts. So, does the structure of these ecosystems matter at all for their productivity? In this talk, we will examine what we think we know about the linkages between forest structure and productivity, and explore some potentially new ways of thinking about this linkage.
Alexander’s research focuses on how tropical forests respond to drivers such as drought, logging, fire, and climate change. He employs statistical models to understand the roles of species, microenvironments, forest structure, and functional traits in these responses on ecological time scales. Alexander leverages his background in electrical engineering to apply new technology to address these ecological questions. He developed and built a novel instrument to measure vertical light profiles from the canopy to the ground, and is using those data to constrain models of light availability in an elevation transect in Peru. He is currently using terrestrial and airborne LiDAR and airborne hyperspectral data to investigate the role of structure in forest productivity and responses of trees to stress.