Environmental Science and Engineering Seminar

Wednesday January 28, 2015 4:00 PM

Simple predictions of forest structure from resource limitations and fractal geometry

Speaker: Chris Kempes, Department of Computing & Mathematical Sciences, Caltech
Location: South Mudd 365

One of the main objectives in ecology and the Earth sciences is to uncover the smallest set of parameters that predict the dominant behavior of a biological system. For vascular plants it has been observed that scaling laws (also known as power laws) govern trends in many organism traits based primarily on organism size. I have developed a theory that synthesizes scaling laws, the morphology of trees, and resource limitations to predict the biogeography of maximum tree height from only a few parameters. In this talk I will show how the characteristic of maximum tree height determines forest structure along with a wide variety of other fundamental forest features. Furthermore, I will demonstrate how this theory generates simple predictions for the response of biomass and net primary productivity to shifts in environmental conditions, including precipitation and temperature. Finally, I will illustrate how this approach and these principles can be applied to other ecologies, in particular, microbial biofilm communities.

Series Environmental Science and Engineering Seminar

Contact: Kathy Young at 626-395-8732 katyoung@gps.caltech.edu