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Environmental drivers of tropical peat swamp forest vegetation patterns

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In the tropics, accumulation of plant material in poorly drained lowlands over thousands of years has led to the formation of peat domes. These are naturally covered with peat swamp forest, which shows a sequence of different communities associated with decreasing fertility and waterlogging from the periphery of the dome to its centre. Tropical peatlands make an important contribution to the global carbon pool and are a haven for endangered species. However, they suffer from severe anthropogenic disturbance in Southeast Asia, where they cover extensive areas. Peat swamp forests have not received the same academic attention as other tropical forest types despite the fact that they offer an interesting setting to study how environment, and in particular fertility and waterlogging gradients, shape vegetation communities. My PhD aims at gaining a better understanding of the environmental drivers and biological processes leading to differential vegetation patterns on untouched and disturbed peat domes. During my first year talk, I present initial findings on the relation between environmental gradients and vegetation structure and composition in a previously undescribed peat dome in Borneo. These results are compared to descriptive studies of other peat domes in SE Asia and serve as a basis to discuss future research addressing the role of functional groups in shaping peat swamp forest communities.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Research Seminars series.

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