Professor Oliver Phillips (University of Leeds) has discovered remarkable change in Earth’s remaining tropical forests. Working with hundreds of colleagues over a quarter-century he has set about to measure tropical forests from the ground-up, and so reveal how, where and why they are changing. This team-work shows that humans now shape even the remotest of these extraordinarily diverse and precious ecosystems. By discovering how tropical forests and trees are not only sensitive to climate change, but also help to slow it, this work helps resolve major scientific uncertainties and influences efforts to manage and monitor forests in the face of climate change.
With his colleagues Phillips has founded, led and inspired multiple vibrant forest research networks. These initiatives create new ways to explore our planet and new opportunities for developing-nation scientists to participate in the global research community. Long-term science is now linked with globally standardized approaches and tropical ecology has become a collaborative, planet-wide endeavour. As a result we have much greater scientific capacity and vital on-the-ground evidence to understand how forests interact with climate change.
Professor of Tropical Ecology, School of Geography, University of Leeds