David Bartholomew
PhD student


Research projects

Project Title:
What eco-physiological traits will facilitate survival in tropical forest trees under environmental change?

Dr Lucy Rowland, Dr Lina Mercado, Dr Lindsay Banin (Edinburgh CEH), Prof David Burslem (University of Aberdeen)

Funding Body:

Project Description:
My research involves investigating how tropical forest trees adapt and respond to environmental stress under a changing climate. In particular, I am interested in understanding how shifts in water, nutrient and light availability affect growth and survival rates. I utilise a range of metabolic and hydrological eco-physiology traits to answer wider ecological questions about the responses of tropical forests to environmental change. My research focuses on both experimental and natural gradients in soil moisture and nutrients across the tropics. The world’s longest running tropical drought experiment in Caxiuanã, Para State, Brazil, is the focal experimental site for my research. Here, 50% of the rainfall has been excluded from a 1 ha plot through the use of plastic panels since 2002. This site allows me to understand how trees of different ages are responding to rapid changes in water availability. In order to identify longer term adaptations to extreme water and nutrient environments, I will utilise a natural water-nutrient gradient in the Sepilok Forest Reserve, Sabah, Malaysia. This site has three distinct forest types, ranging from the nutrient-rich, flood-prone alluvial forest, to the dry, nutrient-poor kerangas forest, with an intermediate terra firme forest. Each of these forests are dominated by the Dipterocarpaceae family. This important family is the focus of my research into long-term adaptations to environmental stress. My key research questions concern understanding how traits differ between habitat specialists and generalists and how they change with ontogenetic development. Overall, I hope to understand how tropical forests will respond to environmental change.


Bartholomew, D.C., Mangel, J.C., Alfaro-Shigueto, J., Pingo, S., Jimenez, A. and Godley, B.J., 2018. Remote electronic monitoring as a potential alternative to on-board observers in small-scale fisheries. Biological Conservation219, pp.35-45. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2018.01.003

Williams HF, Bartholomew DC, Amakobe B, Githiru M. Environmental factors affecting the distribution of African elephants in the Kasigau wildlife corridor, SE Kenya. Afr J Ecol. 2017;00:1–9. https://doi.org/10.1111/aje.12442

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