Patrick Meir

Group membership

My research interests focus on the functioning of tropical forest ecosystems, and how this varies in relation to climate, soils and species composition. Tropical rain forests are frequently under threat, but still cover substantial areas of the globe and represent a hugely important resource for humanity that we are only beginning to understand properly. I have been lucky enough to study them in several countries.

I got my undergraduate degree, in Biology, in 1990 (Oxford, UK) and my PhD in Ecological Science in 1996 (Edinburgh, UK). I led two post-doctoral projects (1995-2001) at the Institute of Ecology and Resource Management at the University of Edinburgh, and in 2002 took up a lectureship in the School of Geosciences. I held a Royal Society of Edinburgh research fellowship from 2009-10, and was made Chair in Ecosystem Science in 2010.

In 2012 I took up an ARC Future Fellowship in the Research School of Biology at The Australian National University. I have a young kids, a daughter and twin boys.

Research interests

I am interested in the functioning of forest ecosystems and how this varies with species composition, climate and soil resources. My main focus has been the ecophysiology of plants and soil although my work, and that of my team, has ranged from investigating plant and soil processes to vegetation modelling and remote sensing. I have led analysis of the impacts of drought on the Amazon rainforest carbon cycle through use of a large-scale field-experimental approach and associated modelling collaborations. Understanding responses to warming and drought is critical to our assessment of rainforests as key elements of the Earth system, and I am now extending some of these studies in SE Asia and Australia.

In related work, I have identified nutrient- and climate-related constraints to photosynthesis and respiration in tropical foliage and woody tissue, challenging widely-used modelling assumptions. I have also developed new understanding of soil respiration in tropical soils using a large-scale soil translocation experiment in the Peruvian Andes to address the roles of temperature, moisture, soil physical properties and soil community diversity in constraining decomposition rates. In recent years my group has also published on root ecology, soil carbon storage, the use of radar to quantify tropical biomass for land use planning, and on the vulnerability and use of ‘ecosystem services’ in tropical ecosystems.

Selected publications

  • Karhu, K, Auffret, MD, Dungait, JAJ, Hopkins,DW, Prosser, JI, Singh, BK, Subke, J-A, Wookey, PA, Ågren, GI, Sebastià, M-T, Gouriveau, F, Bergkvist, G, Meir, P, Nottingham, AT, Salinas, N, & Hartley, IP, Temperature sensitivity of soil respiration rates enhanced by microbial community response, Nature 513 81-84 (link)
  • Zimmermann M, Leifeld J, Conen F, Meir P . (2012). Can composition and physical protection of soil organic matter explain soil respiration temperature sensitivity? Biogeochemistry, 107 , 423-436 DOI: 10.1007/s10533-010-9562-y
  • van de Weg MJ, Meir P, Grace J et al. (2012). Photosynthetic parameters, dark respiration and leaf traits in the canopy of a Peruvian tropical montane cloud forest. Oecologia, 168, 23-34, DOI: 10.1007/s00442-011-2068-z 
  • van der Molen MK, Dolman AJ, Ciais P, incl Meir P et al. (2011). Drought and ecosystem carbon cycling.Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 151, 765-773.
  • Fierer N, McCain CM, Meir P, et al. (2011). Microbes do not follow the elevational diversity patterns of plants and animals. Ecology, 92, 797-804.
  • Meir, P. & Woodward, F. I. 2010 Amazonian rain forests and drought: response and vulnerability. New Phytologist187, 553-557.
  • da Costa ACL, Galbraith D, Almeida S, Portela BTT, da Costa M, Silva JD, Braga AP, de Goncalves PHL, de Oliveira AAR, Fisher R, Phillips OL, Metcalfe DB, Levy P & Meir P (2010) Effect of 7 years of experimental drought on vegetation dynamics and biomass storage of an eastern Amazonian rainforest. New Phytologist, 187, 579-591.
  • Meir P and Pennington RT (2009). Climatic change and seasonally dry tropical forests. In: Seasonally Dry Tropical Forests, Eds H. Mooney, R. Dirzo. Island Press.
  • Domingues TF, Meir P, Saiz G, Feldpausch TR, Veenendaal EM, Schrodt F, Bird M, Djagbletey G, Hien F, Compaore H, Diallo A, Grace J & Lloyd J. (2010). Co-limitation of photosynthetic capacity by nitrogen and phosphorus along a precipitation gradient in West Africa. Plant Cell and Environment 33, 959-980.
  • Metcalfe D.B, Meir P. Aragao LEOC et al. (2010). Progressive increases in Amazon rainforest leaf dark respiration over five years following an experimentally imposed drought. Functional Ecology 24, 524-533.
  • Meir P, Brando PM, Nepstad D, Vasconcelos S, Costa ACL, Davidson E, Almeida S, Fisher RA, Sotta ED, Zarin D, G. Cardinot (2009). The effects of drought on Amazonian rain forests. Amazonia and Global Change, Geophysical Monograph Series, 186, 429-449. 
  • Philips, O, Aragao LEO et al. [incl Meir P] (2009). Drought sensitivity of Amazon rain forest. Science, 323, 1344-1347.
  • Meir P, Metcalfe DB, Costa ACL, Fisher RA (2008). The fate of assimilated carbon during drought: impacts on respiration in Amazon rain forests. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London B 363(1498):1849-55.

All publications