Research in the Feeley lab investigates the ecology and biogeography of tropical forests. Specifically, our research is focused on how the structure, dynamics, composition, and distributions of tropical forests are affected by large-scale anthropogenic disturbances such as climate change, deforestation, and habitat fragmentation. This research integrates disparate disciplines of ecology, is conducted across a range of spatial scales, and requires a broad knowledge of both natural history and advanced empirical modeling techniques. A principle motivation for our research is to understand the implications of human activities for biodiversity and ecosystem services and to use this knowledge to help inform management and conservation strategies.
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Now and In the Future
Changes in the global environment will alter where species occur as they shift their distributions to track their preferred conditions. These changes in species distributions will in turn cause changes in the amount of suitable habitat available to species and hence their population sizes and extinction vulnerabilities. In addition, at the site level, we expect changes in local diversity and composition due to unequal immigration vs. emigration and/or extinction. Projects are being conducted in the Feeley Lab to predict how individual species’ ranges and patterns of community biodiversity and composition will be affected by global climate change.
Forest Dynamics in a
The Feeley Lab is working to understand how global change affects the dynamics, structure and composition of forests worldwide and the subsequent impacts on ecosystem services. This research combines large-scale, long-term analyses of networked plots and online collections records with directed field experiments and observations to determine how tropical forests are changing over time. This information is then used to predict possible forest changes under scenarios of global climate change. These predictions can then be used to help inform conservation policies.
Impacts of Climate Change on
Tropical Agriculture and
The global population is expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050 and 11 billion people by 2100. As a result of these rapid increases in population density combined with increasing affluence, food supply will need to double or triple within the next several decades. Meeting this demand is complicated by changing patterns of crop productivity and yield caused by global climate change, which is. The Feeley Lab is working to understand how tropical agricultural systems are responding to climate change and how this will affect future food security. In addition, the Feeley Lab is investigating the contributions of different agricultural systems and practices to global climate change.
Invasive Species and Climate Change
Miami and its suburbs are a man-made ecosystem completely dominated by invasive species with provenances from throughout the world. While the large number of invasive species in South Florida are clearly of conservation concern, they create a unique and ideal system for investigating basic ecological processes. The Feeley Lab is investigating how species composition and diversity influence the ecology and morphology of individuals as well as the ability of species to respond to climate change. This research also extends beyond South Florida to investigate the factors that allow some species to invade tropical forests and to assess how these invaders are changing tropical forests.
Habitat Fragmentation and
Altered Trophic Dynamics
As a result of ongoing deforestation and land conversion, over half of the world’s tropical forests have already been lost, with an additional 1 – 4% being destroyed each year, inevitably leaving behind complex patchworks of isolated forest fragments embedded in a matrix of crops, pasture, or otherwise modified lands. While habitat fragmentation is widely recognized as one of the leading causes of species extinctions, the mechanisms underlying these extinctions remain poorly resolved. The Feeley Lab is investigating the effects of habitat fragmentation on tropical floral and faunal communities.