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Conservation Research Institute



1997-2020 Science Researcher, Landcare Research, Lincoln, New Zealand

1994-1997 Postdoctoral Researcher,  Imperial College London

1991-1995 PhD titled The Effects of Root Competition on Saplings and Seedlings in Amazonian Caatinga Forest in Southern Venezuela, University of Cambridge



I am interested in understanding how humans are changing the world's forests and how we can reduce impacts. This includes biodiversity conservation and informing conservation policy through research. My group uses large databases of remotely sensed data and modern computational approaches, alongside traditional field approaches to address fundamental ecological questions as well as the most pressing ecological and biodiversity loss issues. Spaceborne and airborne sensors such as LiDAR, hyperspectral and multispectral sensors collect large amounts of data which allow us to assess the impact of land-use change on carbon storage and biodiversity, and to evaluate the impact of climate change. The use of modern computational approaches such as machine learning algorithms allows us to map with evermore precision species distributions and estimate carbon storage in various landscapes, a key factor in determining the potential of forests as a nature-based solution to climate change.

Our research includes:

  • Assessing the impact of land-use change on carbon and biodiversity using LiDAR and hyperspectral sensing
  • Measuring carbon storage in forests using airborne and space-borne technologies
  • Evaluating the success of carbon projects aimed at reducing deforestation in developing countries 
  • Researching the effects of introduced organisms on forest communities and developing control strategies
  • Species distribution modelling to understand the effects on climate change on biological diversity and trait evolution
  • Developing new biological scaling theories, and confirming their significance by statistical analyses of forest inventory data
  • Simulation modelling to examine the responses of forests to environmental change


Key publications: 

Baeten, L., Verheyen, K., Wirth, C., Bruelheide, H., Bussotti, F., Finér, L., . . . Scherer-Lorenzen, M. (2013). A novel comparative research platform designed to determine the functional significance of tree species diversity in European forests. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics15(5), 281-291.

Coomes, D. A., Allen, R. B., Forsyth, D. M., & Lee, W. G. (2003). Factors preventing the recovery of New Zealand forests following control of invasive deerCONSERV BIOL17(2), 450-459.

Russo, S. E., Wiser, S. K., & Coomes, D. A. (2008). A re-analysis of growth-size scaling relationships of woody plant species (vol 10, pg 889, 2007). ECOL LETT, 11(3), 311-312. doi:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01156.x

Grubb, P. J., Jackson, R. V., Barberis, I. M., Bee, J. N., Coomes, D. A., Dominy, N. J., . . . Vargas, O. (2008). Monocot leaves are eaten less than dicot leaves in tropical lowland rain forests: correlations with toughness and leaf presentation.. Ann Bot,101(9), 1379-1389. doi:10.1093/aob/mcn047

Bee, J. N., Tanentzap, A. J., Lee, W. G., Lavers, R. B., Mark, A. F., Mills, J. A., . . . Coomes, D. A. (2011). Influence of foliar traits on forage selection by introduced red deer in New Zealand. BASIC APPL ECOL, 12(1), 56-63 doi:10.1016/j.baae.2010.09.010

Other publications: 


Director of the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute
Head of Forest Ecology and Conservation Group
Professor David A Coomes

Contact Details

The David Attenborough Building, Pembroke Street
01223 333911