I’m currently interested in the biophysical limitations posed by tree height and structure, and how trees mediate the flux of water between the soil and atmosphere.
Forests play a critical role in the terrestrial cycling of carbon and water, and because of the fundamental trade-off between carbon uptake and water loss in plants, the two components are intricately linked. Tropical rainforests account for a substantial proportion of the terrestrial carbon store and are known to be sensitive to changes in water availability, which are expected to occur in response to globally rising temperatures and changing climate patterns.
My work focuses on how the physiology of tropical rainforest trees influence the species- and stand-level forest response to soil and atmospheric water availability. Trees face complex trade-offs between water acquisition, storage and transport, the balance of each strategy functioning optimally under different conditions. By performing detailed field measurements of each part of the system: soil, root, stem, canopy, and atmosphere, in conjunction with different experimental and natural conditions, I aim to characterise these trade-offs and provide a coherent framework to help us understand tropical forest–climate interactions.
As one part of my approach to this field, I use rope access techniques to take in situ measurements in forest canopies, enabling me to build a fuller, and more representative, picture of canopy processes than can be acquired from measurements on detached branches. I’m also working on methods to accurately and continuously measure the water potential gradient, and fluxes, from the soil water table to the outer-most leaves in the forest canopy.