Public Events

08 Oct 2014

The Ecology of Tropical East Asia


This talk was recorded on Wed 8 Oct 2014 at The University of Nottingham Kuala Lumpur Teaching Centre, Level 2, Chulan Tower, No 3 Jalan Conlay, Kuala Lumpur.


Prof. Richard Corlett

Richard Corlett obtained his first degree from the University of Cambridge in 1974, followed by a PhD in plant ecology at the Australian National University, with fieldwork in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. He has subsequently held teaching posts at the University of Chiang Mai (1980-82), National University of Singapore (1982-87, 2008-2012), and the University of Hong Kong (1988-2008). In 2012 he moved to the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Yunnan, to take charge of a new Center for Integrative Conservation. His major research interests include terrestrial ecology and biodiversity conservation in tropical East Asia, plant-animal interactions, urban ecology, invasive species, and the impacts of climate change. In addition to numerous scientific papers, he is the author or co-author of several books, including The Ecology of Tropical East Asia, first published in 2009 by Oxford University Press, and Tropical Rain Forests: an Ecological and Biogeographical Comparison, co-authored with Richard Primack.

Seminar Summary

Tropical East Asia is home to over one billion people and faces massive human impacts from its rising population and rapid economic growth. It has already lost more than two-thirds of its forest cover and has the highest rates of deforestation and logging in the tropics. Hunting, coupled with the relentless trade in wildlife products, threatens all its large and many of its smaller vertebrates. Despite these problems, the region still supports an estimated 15-25% of global terrestrial biodiversity and is therefore a key area for conservation. Effective conservation action depends on a clear understanding of the ecological patterns and processes in the region. The patterns we observe today are a product of the region’s long and complex history, from the tectonic origins of the modern land masses, through the changing climates and sea-levels of the past two million years, to the arrival of modern humans, the spread of agriculture, and the recent rapid urbanization. The last few decades have seen an acceleration in the human domination of the region, with no substantial area unaffected. The environmental changes expected over the next few decades will have no analogues in the past so their impacts are hard to predict. By 2050, global climate change will have produced regional climates that have not occurred anywhere on Earth for tens of millions of years. These changes will interact with others, including increased fragmentation of natural habitats, nutrient enrichment of ecosystems, declines in native species, and proliferation of invasive species. A biodiverse future is still possible, but it will happen only by design, not by default.