Past projects

Today's accomplishments were yesterday's impossibilities
                                                                                                                      Robert H. Schuller


Drought-fire interactions on secondary Brazilian vegetation (2018-2020)



More than 85% of the Brazilian area was originally covered by three biomes: the Amazon, the Cerrado and the Atlantic forest, all among the most biodiverse in the world. However, land use changes and deforestation have reduced this area to less than 60%, and much of the remaining vegetated areas sustain secondary and disturbed vegetation rather than primary vegetation. In addition, the climate is warming and drying, and the increasing occurrence of extreme heat and drought is already causing an increase in the flammability of forests. This project aims to answer the following questions: How will Brazilian forests change as a result of these stressors? Will undisturbed and regenerating forests respond differently? What is the role of biodiversity in mitigating or increasing their vulnerability to a drier, warmer and more flammable climate?

The team: I am co-PI, Principal Investigator (PI) is Dr. Simone Vieira (NEPAM, Unicamp, Brazil). Key project partners are Prof Rafael Silva Oliveira (Unicamp), Prof. Beatriz Schwantes Marimon (UNEMAT Nova Xavantina), and Dr Marina Correia Scalon (U. Oxford).

Finding source: THe project was fully funded by FAPESP (São Paulo, Brazil)


Improving remote sensing fire monitoring in the Colombian Orinoco Basin

Principal Investigator


In this project we validated the latest remote sensing products for this isolated region of the world. In the process, we established a new collaboration between the University of Oxford and Universidad Nacional de Colombia. ​At present, data is being processed and prepared for publication.

​The team: I was PI of this project ad Prof Dolors Armenteras Pascual was co-PI. Dr. Emma Gardner (Postdoctoral research assistant, U. Oxford), Jessica Grinter (research assistant, U. Oxford), Dr Sami RIfai (U. Oxford), Natalia Salazar (MSc student, UnCol).

Funding source: the project was funded by internal University of Oxford ESPRC-GCRF funds.


BIO-RED: BIOmes of Brasil – Resilience, Recovery and Diversity (BIO-RED) (2016 - 2019)

co-Principal Investigator


This projects spans the three largest biomes in Brazil, the Atlantic and Amazon Forests, and Cerrado savanna. Together these cover >85% of Brazil’s territory and include many of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth, but all have seen large losses in extent. While the value of their vegetation is increasingly recognised it is unclear to what extent these systems can regenerate or resist the increasing environmental stressors associated with climate change, particularly heating & drying. The motivation of BIO-RED is to understand how these changes affect the ability of intact & regenerating ecosystems to deliver societal benefits. This requires addressing these key questions: (i) How resilient are old-growth & regenerating ecosystems to the key stressors expected from future environmental changes? (ii) Is the destruction a reversible process on time-scales relevant to human society? Thus, will vegetation recover to a similar state as the original and provide similar services? (iii) Will the increasingly hot climate affect the recovery of forests and will modified forests be more vulnerable to future environmental change than intact forests? Answering these is only possible with a sound understanding how these systems function and what their sensitivities are.

The team: I was co-PI. Other co-PI: Prof Oliver Phillips (U. Leeds), Prof Manuel Gloor (U. Leeds) and Fabien Wagner (INPE). Project collaborators: Prof Yadvinder Malhi (U. Oxford), Dr. David Galbraith (U. Leeds), Dr. Luiz Aragao (INPE), Prof Jos Barlow (U. Lancaster), Dr Marina Correa Scalon (U. Oxford), Prof Beatriz Schwantes Marimon (UNEMAT), Dr. Edmar Oliveira (UNAMET/U/Oxford), Dr. Erika Berenguer (U. Oxford), Dr Joice Ferreira (Embrapa), among others.

Funding: The project was funded by Newton Fund Program with funds allocated to FAPESP (Brazil) and NERC (UK).


Biotic Attributes of the Cerrado-Amazon boundary (2015-2018)

Principal Investigator


This project with UNEMAT (Universidade Estadual do Mato Grosso) studied the functional coordination of vegetation types along the semideciduous forest-shrubland savannah gradient in the Cerrado-Amazon ecotone. This project was funded by the Brazilian Research Program Science without Borders (Ciência sem Fronteiras), which provided funds for the PhD research of Halina Jancoski (completed in 2019). It also funded Dr Marina Correa Scalon as postdoctoral researcher for 1 year, and Silvana Leme’s MSc research.


Testing the fire trap hypothesis in Ghana (2013)

Principal Investigator


This project tested the fire suppression threshold in forest and savannah tree saplings through novel manipulative fire experiments in the forest-savanna transition in Ghana. It collected novel ecological information about differences in the establishment of savanna and forest saplings and their trade-off between fire tolerance and competitive ability. This work is published in Cardoso et al (2016) Ecology and Evolution


Fire behaviour in the Tropical Andes (2012)

Principal Investigator


The goal of this Project was to develop tools for characterizing fire behaviour in TMCFs from the Peruvian Andes. Unfortunately, due to funding cuts the project could only be undertaken for one year. Nevertheless, results from that year are published in Pastor et al (2017) International Journal of Wildland Fire.


Tipping Points of Tropical Forest Savanna transitions (2013-2015)

Principal Investigator


This project aimed to gather a detailed ecological and ecophysiological understanding of the dynamic process of tropical forest-savanna transition, at a number of sites of South America and Africa. The study was framed in the context of the forest-savanna fire thresholds from a functional trait perspective, with the aim of testing and further developing the role of fire and its interaction with drought and resources availability. This was achieved through detailed plot surveys to understand and quantify the tree mortality and recruitment processes,and through targeted manipulative experiments to understand and quantify responses to fire, drought, light and nutrient availability.