Kenneth J. Feeley, PhD

Kenneth J Feeley  Ken Feeley

Assistant Professor of Plant Conservation Biology
Florida International University, Department of Biological Sciences
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Center for Tropical Plant Conservation
T: 305-348-7316

I study the role of biotic and abiotic factors in regulating tropical plant and animal communities.  I am particularly interested in how community dynamics and trophic interactions may become distorted through large-scale anthropogenic disturbances such as global climate change, habitat fragmentation, and land-use change.  My research integrates disparate disciplines of ecology, is conducted across a range of spatial scales, and requires a broad knowledge of both rigorous quantitative techniques and natural history.

Click here for Kenneth J. Feeley's complete CV (PDF)

Click here to go to Kenneth J. Feeley's FIU website


Education and Training

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Wake Forest University, Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group (2007-09)

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Center for Tropical Forest Science, Harvard University (2005-07)

Ph.D. Biology, Duke University (2005)
Dissertation: The effects of habitat fragmentation on tropical floral and faunal communities as mediated through trophic interactions

B.S. Biology, Wake Forest University (1998)


Recent Publications [link to CV including complete list of publications]

Feeley K.J., Silman M.R. 2009. Biotic attrition from tropical forests correcting for truncated temperature niches. Global Change Biology. In press.

Feeley K.J., Silman M.R. 2009. Modelling Andean and Amazonian plant species responses to climate change: the effects of geo-referencing errors and the importance of data filtering. Journal of Biogeography. In press.

Feeley K.J., Silman M.R. 2009. Extinction risks of Amazonian plant species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106, 12382-12387.

Feeley, K.J. and J.W. Terborgh. 2008 Direct vs. indirect effects of habitat reduction on the loss of avian species from tropical forest fragments. Animal Conservation 11: 353-360.

Feeley, K.J., S.J. Wright, S. Davies, M.N.S. Noor, and A.R. Kassim. 2007. Decelerating growth in tropical forest trees. Ecology Letters 10: 461-469.

Feeley, K.J., S.J. Davies, P.S. Ashton, S. Bunyavejchewin, M.N.S. Noor, A.R. Kassim, S. Tan, and J. Chave 2007 The role of gap-phase processes in the biomass dynamics of tropical forests. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. 274: 2857-2864.


Recent Grants and Awards

  • NSF Research Coordinated Networks, core participant (submitted) - Project title: Birds in changing tropical landscapes
  • Amazon Conservation Association’s Seed Grant (2007 & 2008) - Project Title: The impacts of climate change on distributions of Andean tree species


  • Plant Conservation Biology [link to course website]
  • Conservation Biology (at Wake Forest University)

Research Themes and Active Research Projects

Predicting the effects of global climate change on tropical montane forests
The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains harbor some of the most diverse floral and faunal communities in the world, supporting 40,000 – 50,000 vascular plant species, over 20,000 of which are endemic to the region. Unfortunately, this “global epicenter of biodiversity” will be heavily impacted by changing global climatic conditions, potentially leading to the loss of hundreds of species. Current climate change models all predict a 3 – 4°C increase in temperature in the region over the next century which will require species to migrate >800 meters in elevation to remain within their climatic envelopes.  However, in the Andes, treeline is set largely by anthropogenic activities such as cattle grazing and burning and thus represents a potentially impermeable barrier to plant movement which will limit the ability of plants to respond to rising temperatures and thereby accelerate species loss.  In order to help us understand and eventually mitigate the effects of global change in this biodiversity hotspot I am working to identify the factors limiting species distributions and predict how distributions will change under various climate and land use change scenario.  Some examples of specific research questions that I am addressing include: What are the current distributional ranges of tropical montane plant species?  How will climate change and the resultant changes in plant species’ distributions affect ecosystem function (carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, etc)? And can we mitigate the impacts of climate change and human activities in these fragile montane forests (for example, can carbon trading programs be developed to help encourage local populations to minimize burning and increase reforestation efforts above treeline)?

Pantropical changes in forest structure and dynamics in response to global anthropogenic disturbances
Recent studies have revealed that tropical forests are not as stable as once presumed and that they have undergone dramatic shifts in composition and structure over the past several decades.  For example, tropical forests worldwide are reported to be increasing in standing aboveground biomass which has important implications for the global carbon budget.  Although the cause(s) of increasing biomass remains unresolved, several different global change phenomena have been proposed as potential drivers, including increased atmospheric CO2, increased nitrogen deposition, increased irradiance, and increased frequency of disturbances including ENSO associated droughts.  Alternatively, forest changes may be due to idiosyncratic or endogenous factors such as altered faunal communities or succession following past large-scale disturbances.  I am involved with investigations of changes in tropical forests and the underlying mechanisms using data from a pantropical network of large (50-ha) permanent tree plots.