Comparative Ecology of African Tropical Forests

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Declan Cooper

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Start Year

2018 (Cohort 5)

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PhD Project
PhD Title

Comparative Ecology of African Tropical Forests

Research Theme

Biodiversity and Ecology

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Tropical forests play critical roles in the global carbon and water cycles, affect global climate, store the majority of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, and support the lives of millions. Of the world’s three major tropical forest blocs, African forests are the least understood, despite covering 2 million km2 and comprising the largest carbon stock in any terrestrial ecosystem. An unprecedented opportunity to remedy this shortfall is presented by the AfriTRON network of >500 long-term forest inventory plots, supplying tree phytodemography data across 13 African countries. Specifically, I propose to investigate the above-ground biomass, woody productivity, woody residency and tree mortality of African tropical forests, assess how many stems and species they contain, and draw these biodiversity and ecosystem function strands together to determine whether African forests show patterns of ‘hyperdominance’. This synthesis of the structure, function and changes in the ecology of African tropical forests, alongside comparisons with Amazonia and where possible Asia, will for the first time, allow both African and pan-tropical evaluations of the function of tropical forests and their resilience to rapid environmental change.

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