Forest and Savanna Ecology and Conservation
I have a broad research portfolio with a focus on field-based interdisciplinary and applied research. In terms of forest ecology, my work explores patterns of forest disturbance and the regeneration potential of key plant species. For example, the influence of the monocarpic herb, Isoglossa woodii, on the regeneration dynamics of coastal dune forest trees in South Africa and the influence of canopy and sub-canopy gaps on seedling recruitment and diversity. I am particularly interested in theories of species coexistence in biodiverse systems such as rainforests, and have researched the roles of recruitment and dispersal limitation on patterns of tree species establishment in forests in Uganda, Australia and South Africa. Recently, I have compared the efficacy of the light-shade gap dynamics paradigm with neutral models that claim functional equivalence at the establishment or seedling stage. Neutral models argue that functional equivalence of species at establishment ensures that chance establishment maintains species diversity in rainforest trees. In contrast gap dynamics models are based on deterministic establishment of species in gaps, depending on the size of the gap and the species light requirements. International collaborative research projects have been established in Uganda with Prof. Colin Chapman (McGill University, Montreal, Canada) and Dr Patrick Omega (Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda), and in South Africa with Dr. Johan Kotze (Helsinki University, Finland), Dr Hylton Adie (University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, Soutth Africa) and Prof. Jeremy Midgley (University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa).