UCL Department of Geography


Declan Cooper

Research Title

Comparative Ecology of African Tropical Forests

More about David

Academic Qualifications

2018 – Present, University College London: London NERC DTP PhD Candidate
2016 – 2017, University College London: MSc Environmental Modelling: Dissertation: ‘Assessing the Impacts of El Niño on African Tropical Forests’
2010 – 2014, University of Sheffield: BSc Mathematics

Research Interests

Tropical forests play critical roles in the global carbon and water cycles, affect global climate, store the majority of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, and support the lives of millions. Of the world’s three major tropical forest blocs, African forests are the least understood, despite covering 2 million km2 and comprising the largest carbon sink in intact forests.

This PhD will utilise the AfriTRON network of tree phytodemography data from >500 long-term forest inventory plots across 13 African countries, alongside data from tropical forests in Amazonia, Asia and both temperate and boreal forests worldwide, to remedy this shortfall. Specifically, this will be achieved through the characterisation of the forest per aboveground biomass, woody productivity, tree mortality, residence time, and diversity, integrated together using species abundance distributions, and related to climate, soils, specimen data and spatial statistics within a Bayesian modelling framework.

Through this in-depth characterisation, I hope to deepen our understanding of the role of African tropical forests and that of pan-tropical forests in the Earth system, addressing globally significant issues in forest carbon storage and biodiversity conservation which can be used in the future to assess tropical forests’ resilience to rapid environmental change.

Research Funding