Maria Uriarte

Maria Uriarte
Columbia University
Ecology, Evolution & Environmental Biology
11th Floor Schermerhorn Extension, 1200 Amsterdam Ave.
New York
Fields of interest
Forest dynamics, forest simulation modeling, drivers of land use change in the tropics.
Description of scientific projects
The world’s forests harbor the majority of Earth’s biodiversity, regulate global climate, and form the basis for the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of rural communities worldwide, but forests are changing dramatically and their future is uncertain. Climate change, land development, unsustainable extraction, invasions, emerging forest diseases, and many other anthropogenic drivers are altering forest composition, structure, and stability at rates that are unprecedented in recent history. Perhaps the most fundamental challenge of this millennium will be to develop a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms of forest dynamics so that their responses to anthropogenic drivers can be modeled accurately to provide scientifically based means for predicting the future of forests and the basis of sound management practices. My research centers on understanding how spatial interactions across a broad range of scales (individuals within a forest stand, landscape, and region) can inform the management and conservation of forest resources. Through a program of integrated empirical and theoretical research, my work explores the spatially-explicit mechanisms of forest response to anthropogenic drivers across broad geographic ranges. While this research contributes directly to the advancement of ecological and evolutionary science, I take its findings much further. From this research I develop models of forest dynamics that are unique in their use of spatially-explicit interactions among species to provide predictions of forest response to anthropogenic drivers that are much more accurate than traditional models. These spatially-explicit models not only accurately predict the impacts of each driver, but they do so at the appropriate scale. For example, timber harvesting is treated as a stand-level driver, land fragmentation is treated as a driver that occurs at the level of the landscape, and the impacts of global climate change are analyzed at regional scales. By targeting these key drivers, working at appropriate spatial scales, and focusing on ecological and evolutionary mechanisms that govern forest dynamics, the models I develop can serve as management tools for the production of forest goods and services that are compatible with the goals of conservation. The main three current foci of my research program are: A. Hurricanes and land use legacies are drivers of forest dynamics in Caribbean Forests B. Spatial Modeling of the Impacts of Forest Fragmentation in Amazonia. C. Spatial Models: Resolving the Conflict Between Forest Stewardship and Timber Extraction