Developing predictive trait-based scaling theory applied to forests that span broad temperature gradients

  • Date: Tuesday 16 May 2017
  • Time: 16.30
  • Venue: School of Earth and Environment, Seminar Room 8.119 (b)
  • Speaker: Professor Brian Enquist, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona


Tropical elevation gradients are natural laboratories to assess how changing climate can influence tropical forests. However, there is a need for theory and integrated data collection to scale from traits to ecosystems. We assess predictions of a novel trait-based metabolic scaling theory including (i) if observed shifts in forest traits across a broad tropical temperature gradient is consistent with local phenotypic optima and adaptive compensation for temperature; and (ii) if the distribution of traits distributions consistent with the importance of local filtering of optimal growth traits and recent shifts in species composition and dominance due to warming from climate change.

I will present data from a collaborative effort of several institutions across the globe where field work was conducted across forests spanning 3300m in elevation in southern Perú as well as a broad sampling of forests across the globe. We tested several predictions of theory by assessing the covariation between climate, traits, biomass and also ecosystem gross and net primary productivity (GPP and NPP). We measured multiple leaf physiological, morphological, and stoichiometric traits linked to variation in tree growth and assessed their frequency distributions within and across temperature gradients. We paired these trait measures across individuals within forests where simultaneous measures of ecosystem net and gross primary productivity. I will present evidence that new advances in trait-based metabolic scaling theory provides a basis to predict how shifts in climate have and will influence the trait composition and ecosystem functioning of forests.


Prof. Brian Enquist is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the University of Arizona and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. His research focuses on global ecology, macroecology, plant functional ecology. He is a broadly trained ecologist/biologist and plant ecophysiologist. His research focuses on: (i) understanding the origin and maintenance of biological diversity; (ii) scaling biological phenomena from genes to ecosystems; and (iii) developing new tools and approaches to predicting how climate change will influence biological diversity and the functioning of ecosystems.  A common theoretical theme focuses on the origin and ramifications of biological scaling laws. To address these questions he often works in tropical forests of Peru, Panama, and Costa Rica as well as the high alpine meadows of Colorado. His lab group uses physiological, ecosystem, big data informatics, and theoretical methods. He is the lead PI for the Botanical Informaiton and Ecology Network, an unprecedented plant cyberinfrastructure project providing access to unmatched amounts of geospatial and trait data for plants  He is currently an Oxford Martin School Fellow and Leverhulme visiting Professor at Oxford Univeristy.  In addition he is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  He is recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Costa Rica; the Ecological Society of America’s Young Investigator Mercer Award; a National Science Foundation young investigator’s (NSF) CAREER Award; and was highlighted as one of Popular Mechanics ‘Brilliant Top 10’ Young Researchers.

Drinks will be available after the talk in the foyer