Environmental Stress & Functional Ecology - ESFE

Tropical Plants and Systems

Tropical ecosystems exhibit one of the world’s richest plant diversities but they are particularly vulnerable to natural and human impacts. Over the last decades, population growth, deforestation and the expansion of cash crops dramatically changed many tropical landscapes.

Understanding tropical ecosystems through a multi-scale, multidisciplinary and technologically driven approach (e.g. conservation ecology, evolution, taxonomy, molecular systematics, ethnobotany, use of monitoring and modeling tools) is the main goal of this sub-group. Such an approach is crucial to build knowledge, predict impacts, support management and conservation decisions, and improve the livelihood of local human populations.

We address four main topics:

(i) Tropical plant diversity, evolution, and conservation, focusing on tropical islands and African flora, as well as on species and habitat conservation, identification of threats, and management of ecosystem services.

(ii) Patterns and processes in tropical ecosystems, using a multi-scale approach that relies on field-based methods and remote sensing technologies to document changes and monitor processes at local and regional scales.

(iii) Wild plant uses, valuing and conservation of tropical native resources, recognizing the diversity, distribution and traditional uses of local resources and their links to different research areas (Botany, Anthropology, History, Pharmacology).

(iv) Tropical agroecology, studying the impacts of population growth and expansion of cash crops on ecosystems, and evaluating alternatives that preserve ecosystems (e.g. land sharing vs. land sparing, agroforestry systems and multilayer crop systems).


On-going projects include collaborations with researchers and institutions from tropical countries, as well as with other Portuguese research centers and international organizations.