Peter A. Palmiotto (PhD)

Core Faculty and Director of Conservation Biology Concentration
Department of Environmental Studies

Tropical Ecology

My research focuses on the biological attributes of individual tree species that influence ecosystem level processes and biological diversity in forest ecosystems.

My graduate studies in tropical ecosystem ecology addressed ecosystem level questions in a tropical evergreen mixed dipterocarp forest in the Lambir Hills of northwestern Malaysia and Gunung Palung National Park in Indonesia.

My dissertation research, conducted in Malaysia, found evidence that nutrients may play an important role in creating tree species diversity. In the past, researchers have identified light and moisture as important limiting resources in forest ecosystems and used these variables to explain patterns of species diversity.

I found evidence that nutrient cycles varied within a single forest type and that these cycles were correlated with the base nutrient status of the underlying soils. My research demonstrated that a species restricted to a more nutrient poor soil was more nitrogen use-efficient and phosphorus use-efficient than a closely related sympatric species restricted to a more nutrient rich soil (Palmiotto et.al., in prep). This research is significant because it shows that tree species have the ability to differentiate among habitats due to variation in nutrient status.

These results imply that, in addition to light and moisture upon which a great deal of research effort has been concentrated, nutrient-use efficiency is another mechanism that significantly influences gro