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Changing the landscape of conservation

We use high-resolution remote sensing to understand how forests are responding to global environmental changes including logging, land management and climate change, addressing key issues in ecology and conversation.

“Conserving the world’s dwindling biological diversity is one of the most pressing issues facing mankind. I lead a research group that is actively engaged in addressing these issues, as well as tackling more fundamental ecological questions. Focusing on forest conservation and ecology, my research uses large databases and modern computational approaches, alongside traditional field approaches.”

Head of Group – Professor David Coomes

Latest News

Treetops protect forest life from global warming

The cooling leaf canopy protects forest organisms from extreme temperatures and has a significant influence on their adaptation to global warming. This study led by Florian Zellweger appeared as the cover story on Science.

River flow does not recover after planting trees

River flow is reduced in areas where forests have been planted and does not recover over time. Rivers in some regions can completely disappear within a decade. Read more

Tropical forests may never fully recover from logging

Continually logging and re-growing tropical forests to supply timber is reducing the levels of vital nutrients in the soil, which may limit future forest growth and recovery. Read more

Expedition finds tallest tree in the Amazon

New research has discovered the tallest known tree in the Amazon, towering above the previous record holder at a height of 88.5 metres. This giant could store as much carbon as an entire hectare of rainforest elsewhere in the Amazon. Read more

About Us

Who we are

Human population growth and resource consumption are placing enormous pressures on natural ecosystems. We are interested in how and why the world’s forests are changing and using our research to inform conservation policy.

  • Team photo 2007 in Norfolk coast


What we do

Laser Scanning Forest Carbon

Airborne laser scanning (ALS) and hyperspectral imaging provide a new perspective on ecological dynamics, allowing us to track both the demography of individual trees and properties of the canopy over vast areas…

Forest Biodiversity

We are interested in modelling plant distributions and patterns of species diversity…

How Forest are Responding to Global Change

Our group seeks to describe and quantify processes such as mortality, regeneration and species interactions, and how they change over time and across the landscape…

What Types of Interventions Work in Conservation?

We are investigating the social and environmental performance of a suite of interventions aimed at reversing trends in forest loss…

Find out more…


Where we are

We are a group of researchers at University of Cambridge. Being a part of the Conservation Research Institute, our offices are in David Attenborough Building at New Museum site; Being a part of Department of Plant Sciences, our wet labs are at Downing site.

Latest Publications

Carbon flux and forest dynamics: Increased deadwood decomposition in tropical rainforest tree‐fall canopy gaps

Tree mortality rates are increasing within tropical rainforests as a result of global environmental change. When trees die, gaps are created in forest canopies and carbon is transferred from the living to deadwood pools. However, little is known about the effect of tree‐fall canopy gaps on the activity of decomposer communities and the rate ofContinue reading “Carbon flux and forest dynamics: Increased deadwood decomposition in tropical rainforest tree‐fall canopy gaps”

Monitoring ash dieback in British forests using hyperspectral remote sensing

Fungal ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) is posing an imminent threat to forest health in Europe. Using airborne hyperspectral imagery trained against 422 tree crowns of known species and ash dieback severity, we built PLS-DA and RF models that classified individual tree crowns (ITCs) into five species (>90% OA) and ash crowns into three disease severityContinue reading “Monitoring ash dieback in British forests using hyperspectral remote sensing”

Riparian buffers act as microclimatic refugia in oil palm landscapes

There is growing interest in the ecological value of set‐aside habitats around rivers in tropical agriculture. These riparian buffers typically comprise forest or other non‐production habitat, and are established to maintain water quality and hydrological processes, while also supporting biodiversity, ecosystem function and landscape connectivity. We investigated the capacity for riparian buffers to act asContinue reading “Riparian buffers act as microclimatic refugia in oil palm landscapes”

Resilience of Spanish forests to recent droughts and climate change

Time-series of canopy greenness derived from satellite imagery can beanalysed alongside environmental factors, species composition andmanagement regimes, to better understand forest resilience to drought.In Spain, forests are on average greening despite drying trends. Thisresilience manifests in the short-term with native species activatingdrought tolerance and avoidance mechanisms observable from space (i.e.losing and gaining little greenness likeContinue reading “Resilience of Spanish forests to recent droughts and climate change”

Standardizing Ecosystem Morphological Traits from 3D Information Sources

3D-imaging technologies provide measurements of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems’ structure, key for biodiversity studies. However, the practical use of these observations globally faces practical challenges. First, available 3D data are geographically biased, with significant gaps in the tropics. Second, no data source provides, by itself, global coverage at a suitable temporal recurrence. Thus, global monitoringContinue reading “Standardizing Ecosystem Morphological Traits from 3D Information Sources”

Protecting biodiversity and economic returns in resource‐rich tropical forests

In pursuit of socioeconomic development, many countries are expanding oil and mineral extraction into tropical forests. These activities seed access to remote, biologically rich areas, thereby endangering global biodiversity. Here we demonstrate that conservation solutions that effectively balance the protection of biodiversity and economic revenues are possible in biologically valuable regions. Using spatial data onContinue reading “Protecting biodiversity and economic returns in resource‐rich tropical forests”

Dynamics of a human‐modified tropical peat swamp forest revealed by repeat lidar surveys

Tropical peat swamp forests (PSFs) are globally important carbon stores under threat. In Southeast Asia, 35% of peatlands had been drained and converted to plantations by 2010, and much of the remaining forest had been logged, contributing significantly to global carbon emissions. Yet, tropical forests have the capacity to regain biomass quickly and forests onContinue reading “Dynamics of a human‐modified tropical peat swamp forest revealed by repeat lidar surveys”