The impact of human activities on the environment and the climate system is indisputable. A knowledge-based understanding of such global environmental changes is paramount, and my research centers on assessing these changes across several regions of the planet. Specifically, I use tree rings and isotopic geochemistry to: (1) estimate climate conditions prior to the existence of instrumental records (i.e. paleoclimate); (2) assess the response of forests to natural and anthropogenic changes in the climate and to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and; (3) study the impacts of vegetation feedbacks on the global carbon and hydrological cycles, and the Earth’s energy balance (e.g. changes in surface albedo) on further climate change.
My multidisciplinary research embraces atmospheric sciences and ecology, and has provided insights on past interactions between the climate and land ecosystems. These findings serve as the basis for understanding, and planning for, future anthropogenic impacts on the environment. I am currently conducting research in boreal, tropical, Central Asia and Mediterranean regions, which are ‘hot spots’ of current climate and environmental changes. Importantly, during the last 5 years as a principal investigator for more than 15 projects, I have reported on varying forest responses to changing climate in terms of carbon storage and evapotranspiration, but have found no significant forest response attributed to increasing atmospheric CO2. The centennial to millennial tree-ring records generated as part of my research have provided invaluable information for understanding net primary productivity and past climate variability that can improve reliability of climate models, frequently challenged by the limited time-span of instrumental observations. Supported by four newly-received awards, I’ve been pushing the frontiers of Science in the Tropics by pioneering the development of tree-ring records across the Andes in South America.