Research Areas

Current research of our group is mainly focused on three areas:

  1. Understanding mechanisms of species coexistence and its implications for biodiversity conservation across scales by integrating spatial ecology, macroecology, functional ecology and community phylogeny. Our long-term goal is linking regional evolutionary history and ecosystem functioning to ecological patterns and interactions across scales. Over the past a few years, our research has demonstrated how niche and neutral processes and negative density dependence shape biodiversity in subtropical forests. We are now expanding our interest into diverse types of forests along latitudinal gradient in China based on the CForBio.

  2. Biodiversity and forest ecosystem function, especially 1) underground biomass and productivity in subtropical forests and 2) soil microbial diversity and the relationship between plant and microbial diversity. We try to find root and underground biomass distribution pattern using traditional methods such as in-growth cores and new methods such as ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and plant DNA barcording. Besides, we interested in the structural and functional diversity of soil microbes and whether they are related to plant diversity in forests.

  3. Biosafety, including alien invasive plants (AIPs) and ecological assessment of genetically modified plants (GMPs) as well as the consequence of the potential environmental release of synthetic biology products. We had established AIP species database and developed methods for environmental impact assessment and risk analysis for AIP study and management in China. One main risk of global release of GMPs is gene flow, thus we combine field test and lab study to assess fitness of transgene and the progenies that carrying transgene. The results will serve as important scientific evidences for risk management and decision makings.

  4. Many species are threatened with extinction due to human related threats such as overexploitation, habitat loss and climate change. Unfortunately, uncertainty remains over the pattern and effect of these threats, which in turn has generated controversy over the conservation strageties. We use tools of spatial statistics, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and modeling techniques to describe biodiversity patterns in large scale, and to develop rigorous tests of mechanistic hypotheses. We use field studies and experimental approaches to evaluate the effects and mechanisms through which human-related threats lead to species extinction, as well as ecosystem corruption. Most of conservation strategies focus on priopritizing limited conservation resources on key ares and hotspots of biodiversity. Unfortunately, such strategy is being developed at the same time that biodiversity is being lost, without assessments of effectiveness. We use a combination database of biodiversity and socioeconomic conditions to evaluate the effectiveness of existing conservation strategies in terms of enforcement and biological response