Dr Lucy Rowland
Lecturer / NERC Independent Research Fellow


I am a NERC independent research fellow and hold a lectureship position at the University of Exeter.  My research is focused on understanding how tropical forests respond to climate change. Drought and warming are predicted to be key threats to tropical forests under future climate scenarios. Currently however, vegetation models struggle to predict how tropical forests will respond to environmental change, largely because of a lack of mechanistic understanding concerning how trees respond to environmental stress.

My research has always worked at the interface between data collection and vegetation modelling.  Previously I completed a PhD titled 'Reducing uncertainty in predictions of the response of Amazonian forest to climate change' at the University of Edinburgh in 2013. Since my PhD I have completed two post-doctoral positions one in the University of Edinburgh focused on understanding how tree mortality risk is related to hydraulic and metabolic properties of tropical trees. My second position was based at the University of Exeter and focused on modelling drought-induced mortality in the Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES), specifically focusing on how to introduce a representation of plant hydraulics and drought-induced tropical tree mortality into JULES.

My current research focuses on trying to understand how the process of ontogeny, or tree development, is altered by environmental stress, and in particular how this may alter tropical forest structure, function and the risk of forests transitioning into a new ecosystem type. The focal site of my current research is the longest running tropical drought experiment site in the world, located in Caxiuana National Reserve, Para State, Brazil. At this site, plastic panels have been used to exclude 50% of the incoming rainfall from a 1ha old growth tropical forest plot since 2002. At this unique site I have been conducting a range of physiological measurements which are aimed at determining if certain combinations of hydrological and metabolic traits put trees of particular sizes or species at greater risk of mortality from drought than others.  Using this site and others, my key focus is to understand if, and how, ecosystems can respond to environmental change.

Please see my blog for further details:


Broad research specialisms:

Tropical Forest, Climate change, Drought, Vegetation modelling, Eco-physiology, carbon dynamics, water dynamics.


BA Geography 2009, University of Oxford,
PhD – 2013 University of Edinburgh


Contact details

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Tel+44 (0) 1392 724488

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