I study how human activities impact tropical rainforest plant and wildlife communities.  I am especially interested in how vulnerable wildlife and plant species are affected by major land-use and climate change.  My work spans much of the tropical world, including the Amazon and tropical Australia.

I have maintained a long-term involvement at the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project in Brazil, which is the largest, longest-running experimental study into how human land-use impacts rainforest communities. This dataset has also contributed significantly to our current understanding of forest dynamics, floristic diversity and carbon stock and pulses in tropical rainforests.  

In Australia, I have developed an extensive research program that continues my work in global change and tropical forests at the Daintree Rainforest Observatory (DRO), where we have initiated an ambitious experiment to induce an artifical drought in order to study its effects on rainforest biodiversity.  My other research programs include understanding the biotic and abiotic drivers of secondary forest composition and carbon sequestration, and how fragmentation and human land-use influences disease vectors. I am lead investigator on $1.6 million in research grants and have authored more than 100 peer-reviewed reserach articles. 

  • BZ5755: Biodiversity and Climate Change: Impact, Mitigation and Adaptation (Level 5; TSV)
  • Ecology Conservation Biology Restoration ecology Climate change Rainforest ecology
  • 2010 to 2015 - Tropical Leader, James Cook University (Cairns)
  • 2001 to 2009 - Post-doctoral researcher, STRI (Brazil & Panama)
  • 1996 to 2001 - Herbarium manager, BDFFP (Brazil)
  • 1990 to 1995 - Conservation officer, QNPWS (Cairns)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2014 to 2017 - ARC Future Fellow ($680,000), Global Change: Rainforest responses to experimental drought
  • 2012 to 2015 - Lead Investigator, ARC Discovery Grant ($365,000), Response and vulnerability of tropical rainforest plants to experimental drought
  • 2011 to 2014 - Lead investigator, ARC Linkage Grant ($460,000), Accelerating species and biomass gains in tropical secondary forests
  • 2011 to 2014 - Lead Investigator, NERP/RRRC Grant ($102,000), Land use and disease dynamics across the Torres Straits
  • 2015 to 2050 - Fellow of the Royal Society of Quensland
  • 2007 to 2009 - NSF Post-doctoral Fellow, STRI Panama
  • 2004 to 2006 - Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, STRI Panama
  • 2002 to 2004 - NASA LBA Post-doctoral Fellow, INPA Brazil & STRI Panama
  • 2009 to 2016 - Research Associate, Smithsonian Tropical Reseach Institute
  • 1996 to 2016 - Research Associate, Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, Brazil
  • 2013 to 2015 - President of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC)
  • 2011 to 2014 - Deputy Chair, Scientific Advisory Committee of the Wet Tropics Management Authority, Cairns
  • 2009 to 2011 - Councilor of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
  • Campbell M, Edwards W, Magrach A, Laurance S, Alamgir M, Porolak G and Laurance W (2017) Forest edge disturbance increases rattan abundance in tropical rain forest fragments. Scientific Reports, 7. pp. 1-12
  • Edwards W, Liddell M, Franks P, Nichols C and Laurance S (in press) Seasonal patterns in rainforest litterfall: detecting endogenous and environmental influences from long-term sampling. Austral Ecology, 42. pp. 1-11
  • Ewers R, Andrade A, Laurance S, Camargo J, Lovejoy T and Laurance W (2017) Predicted trajectories of tree community change in Amazonian rainforest fragments. Ecography, 40 (1). pp. 26-35
  • Graham V, Laurance S, Grech A and Venter O (2017) Spatially explicit estimates of forest carbon emissions, mitigation costs and REDD+ opportunities in Indonesia. Environmental Research Letters, 12. pp. 1-11
  • Levis C, Costa F, Bongers F, Peña-Claros M, Clement C, Junqueira A, Neves E, Tamanaha E, Figueiredo F, Salomão R, Castilho C, Magnusson W, Phillips O, Guevara J, Sabatier D, Molino J, Cárdenas López D, Monteagudo Mendoza A, Pitman N, Duque A, Núñez Vargas P, Zartman C, Vásquez R, Andrade A, Camargo J, Feldpausch T, Laurance S, Laurance W, Killeen T, Mendonça Nascimento H, Montero J, Mostacedo B, Amaral I, Guimarães Vieira I, Brienen R, Castellanos H, Terborgh J, de Jesus Veiga Carim M, da Silva Guimaraes J, de Souza Coelho L, de Almeida Matos F, Wittman F, Mogollón H, Damasco G, Dávila N, García-Villacorta R, Honorio Coronado E, Emilio T, de Andrade Lima Filho D, Schlietti J, Souza P, Targhetta N, Comiskey J, Marimon B, Marimon Jr. B, Neill D, Alonso A, Arroyo L, Carvalho F, Coelho de Sousa F, Dallmeier F, Pansonato M, Duivenvoorden J, Fine P, Stevenson P, Araujo-Murakami A, Aymard C. G, Baraloto C, do Amaral D, Engel J, Henkel T, Maas P, Petronelli P, Cardenas Revilla J, Stropp J, Daly D, Gribel R, Ríos Paredes M, Silviera M, Thomas-Caesar R, Baker T, Ferriera da Silva N, Ferriera L, Peres C, Silman M, Cerón C, Valverde F, Di Fiore A, Jiminez E, Peñuala Mora M, Toledo M, Barbosa E, de Matos Bonates L, Arboleda N, de Sousa Farias E, Fuentes A, Guillaumet J, Jørgensen P, Malhi Y, de Andrade Miranda I, Phillips J, Prieto A, Rudas A, Ruschell A, Silva N, von Hildebrand P, Vos V, Zent E, Zent S, Ladvocat Cintra B, Nascimento M, Oliveira A, Ramírez-Angulo H, Ramos J, Rivas-Torres G, Schöngart J, Sierra R, Tirado M, van der Heijden G, Vilanova Torre E, Wang O, Young K, Baider C, Cano A, Farfan-Rios W, Ferreira C, Hoffman B, Mendoza C, Mesones I, Torres-Lezama A, Umaña Medina M, van Andel T, Villarroel D, Zagt R, Alexiades M, Balslev H, Garcia-Cabrera K, Gonzales T, Hernandez L, Huamantupa-Chuquimaco I, Manzatto A, Milliken W, Palacios Cuenca W, Pansini S, Pauletto D, Ramirez Arevalo F, Costa Reis N, Sampaio A, Urrego Giraldo L, Valderrama Sandoval E, Valenzuela Gamarra L, Vela C and ter Steege H (2017) Persistent effects of pre-Columbian plant domestication on Amazonian forest composition. Science, 355 (6328). pp. 925-931
  • Massi K, Bird M, Marimon B, Marimon B, Nogueira D, Oliveira E, Phillips O, Quesada C, Andrade A, Brienen R, Camargo J, Chave J, Honorio Coronado E, Ferreira L, Higuchi N, Laurance S, Laurance W, Lovejoy T, Malhi Y, Martinez R, Monteagudo A, Neill D, Prieto A, Ramírez-angulo H, Ter Steege H, Vilanova E and Feldpausch T (2017) Does soil pyrogenic carbon determine plant functional traits in Amazon Basin forests? Plant Ecology, 218 (9). pp. 1047-1062
  • Preece N, Abell S, Grogan L, Wayne A, Skerratt L, Van Oosterzee P, SHIMA A, Daszak P, Field H, Reiss A, Berger L, Rymer T, Fisher D, Lawes M, Laurance S, McCallum H, Esson C and Epstein J (2017) A guide for ecologists: detecting the role of disease in faunal declines and managing population recovery. Biological Conservation, 214. pp. 136-146
  • Sullivan M, Talbot J, Lewis S, Phillips O, Qie L, Begne S, Chave J, Cuni-Sanchez A, Habau W, López-González G, Miles L, Monteagudo-Mendoza A, Sonké B, Sunderland T, ter Steege H, White L, Affum-Baffoe K, Aiba S, Cristo de Almeida E, Almeida de Oliveira E, Alvarez-Loayza P, Álvarez Davilá E, Andrade A, Aragão L, Ashton P, Aymard C. G, Baker T, Balinga M, Banin L, Baraloto C, Bastin J, Berry N, Bogaert J, Bonal D, Bongers F, Brienen R, Camargo J, Cerón C, Moscoso V, Chezeaux E, Clark C, Pacheco Á, Comiskey J, Cornejo Valverde F, Honorio Coronado E, Dargie G, Davies S, de Canniere C, Djuikouo K. M, Doucet J, Erwin T, Espejo J, Ewango C, Fauset S, Feldspausch T, Herrera R, Gilpin M, Gloor E, Hall J, Harris D, Hart T, Kartawinata K, Khoon Kho L, Kitayama K, Laurance S, Laurance W, Leal M, Lovejoy T, Lovett J, Mpanya Lukasu F, Makana J, Malhi Y, Maracahipes L, Marimon B, Marimon Junior B, Marshall A, Morandi P, Muckendi J, Mukinzi J, Nilus R, Núñez Vargas P, Pallqui Camacho N, Pardo G, Peña-Claros M, Pétronelli P, Pickavance G, Poulsen A, Poulsen J, Primack R, Priyadi H, Quesada C, Reitsma J, Réjou-Méchain M, Restrepo Z, Rutishauser E, Abu Salim K, Salamão R, Samsoedin I, Sheil D, Sierra R, Silveira M, Slik J, Steel L, Taedoumg H, Tan S, Terborgh J, Thomas S, Toledo M, Umunay P, Valenzuela Gamarra L, Vieira I, Vos V, Wang O, Willcock S and Zemagho L (2017) Diversity and carbon storage across the tropical forest biome. Scientific Reports, 7. pp. 1-12
  • Venter M, Dwyer J, Dieleman W, Ramachandra A, Gillieson D, Laurance S, Cernusak L, Beehler B, Jensen R and Bird M (2017) Optimal climate for large trees at high elevations drives patterns of biomass in remote forests of Papua New Guinea. Global Change Biology, 23 (11). pp. 4873-4883
  • Apgaua D, Tng D, Cernusak L, Cheesman A, Santos R, Edwards W and Laurance S (2016) Plant functional groups within a tropical forest exhibit different wood functional anatomy. Functional Ecology, 31 (3). pp. 582-591
  • Coelho de Souza F, Dexter K, Phillips O, Brienen R, Chave J, Galbraith D, López-gonzález G, Mendoza A, Pennington R, Poorter L, Alexiades M, Esteban Á, Andrade A, Aragão L, Araujo-Murakami A, Arets E, Aymard C. G, Baraloto C, Barroso J, Bonal D, Boot R, Camargo J, Comiskey J, Valverde F, de Camargo P, Di Fore A, Elias F, Erwin T, Feldpausch T, Ferreira L, Fyllas N, Gloor E, Herault B, Herrera R, Higuchi N, Honorio Coronado E, Killeen T, Laurance W, Laurance S, Lloyd J, Lovejoy T, Malhi Y, Maracahipes L, Marimon B, Marimon-Junior B, Mendoza C, Morandi P, Neill D, Núñez Vargas P, De Oliveira E, Lenza E, Palacios W, Peñuela-Mora M, Pipoly J, Pitman N, Prieto A, Quesada C, Ramírez-Angulo H, Rudas A, Ruokolainen K, Salomão R, Silveira M, Stropp J, ter Steege H, Thomas-Caesar R, van der Hout P, van der Heijden G, van der Meer P, Vásquez R, Vieira S, Vilanova E, Vos V, Wang O, Young K, Zagt R and Baker T (2016) Evolutionary heritage influences Amazon tree ecology. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological Sciences, 283. pp. 1-10
  • Feldpausch T, Phillips O, Brienen R, Gloor E, Lloyd J, López-gonzález G, Monteagudo-Mendoza A, Malhi Y, Alarcón A, Álvarez-Dávila E, Alvarez-Loayza P, Andrade A, Aragao L, Arroyo L, Aymard C. G, Baker T, Baraloto C, Barroso J, Bonal D, Castro W, Chama V, Chave J, Domingues T, Fauset S, Groot N, Honorio Coronado E, Laurance S, Laurance W, Lewis S, Licona J, Marimon B, Marimon-junior B, Mendoza Bautista C, Neill D, Oliveira E, Oliveira dos Santos C, Pallqui Camacho N, Pardo-Molina G, Prieto A, Quesada C, Ramírez F, Ramírez-Angulo H, Réjou-Méchain M, Rudas A, Saiz G, Salomão R, Silva-Espejo J, Silveira M, ter Steege H, Stropp J, Terborgh J, Thomas-Caesar R, van der Heijden G, Vásquez-Martinez R, Vilanova E and Vos V (2016) Amazon forest response to repeated droughts. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 30 (7). pp. 964-982

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 81+ research outputs authored by A/Prof Susan Laurance from 1999 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Skyrail Rainforest Foundation - Research Funding

Improving wildlife corridor designs to mitigate the impacts of habitat fragmentation on small mammals in Peninsular Malaysia

Indicative Funding
The effects of habitat fragmentation on ecological communities are a major concern because they are a major causal factor in species declines globally. One popular way of reducing the impacts of fragmentation is the use of wildlife corridors to link disconnected habitat patches and facilitate population connectivity. However, there is little evidence that corridors work as intended to improve connectivity, species diversity and population persistence. In this study, I am tracking and analysing the movements of a diverse group of small mammals to determine what kinds of animals use corridors, how they use corridors and what features encourage them to do so.
Tabitha Hui, Susan Laurance and Reuben Clements (College of Science & Engineering and Sunway University)
animal movement; habitat fragmentation; wildlife corridor; small mammals; species diversity; connectivity

Wet Tropics Management Authority - Student Research Grant Scheme

Drivers of mangrove forest dynamics

Indicative Funding
This study will explore the long-term dynamics of mangrove forests along the Daintree River in north-eastern Australia. The specific research objectives aim to: describe forest dynamic patterns over a 30 year sampling period and identify the major abiotic correlates (e.g. sediment characteristics, rainfall intensity, storm intensity, tidal exposure-elevation positioning, temperature-climate) that may explain the variation in mangrove forest dynamics.
Aik Ting Gladys Chua and Susan Laurance (College of Science & Engineering)
Mangroves; Long-term patterns; Forest Dynamics

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Future Fellowships

Global Change: Rainforest responses to experimental drought

Indicative Funding
$680,065 over 5 years
How will rainforests respond if droughts increase in the future? In a globally unique experiment, I will examine how Australian tropical rainforests are affected by a large-scale experimental drought, using a canopy crane to assess plant responses at all vertical forest levels. I will contrast demographic and physiological responses of an array of plant species and functional groups between experimental and control plots where tree growth, composition, soil water and atmospheric exchange have been monitored since 1999. Drought responses of key species and functional groups will be compared with their distributions across regional rainfall gradients to yield crucial insights into the potential impacts of future climate change on rainforests.
Susan Laurance (College of Science & Engineering)
rainforest ecology; climate change adaptations; Ecophysiology

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

Response and vulnerability of tropical rainforest plants to experimental drought

Indicative Funding
$365,000 over 3 years
How will tropical forests respond if droughts should increase in the future? In a globally unique experiment, we will induce artificial rough in an Australian tropical rainforest and then use a canopy crane to assess plant responses at all vertical forest layers. We will contrast demographic and physiological responses of an array of plant species and functional groups, compared to nearby experimental-control plots where tree growth, composition, soil water and atmospheric exchange have been monitored since 1999. Drought responses for key species and functional groups will be compared with their distributions across regional rainfall gradients to yield novel insights into potential rainforest responses to future climate change.
Susan Laurance, Joe Holtum, Bill Laurance and Paul Nelson in collaboration with Jonathan Lloyd and Maurizio Mencuccini (College of Science & Engineering, University of Leeds and University of Edinburgh)
rainforest ecology; climate change adaptations; Ecophysiology

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Maintaining Connectivity for Tropical Rainforest Mammals in Agricultural Landscapes (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Floristic Diversity and Patch Dynamics in hyper-disturbed rainforest fragments; Is Cyclone-disturbance and habitat fragmentation driving functional convergence in tree assemblages towards early successional states? (Masters , Primary Advisor)
  • Effects of Marine Debris and Entanglement on the Health of Marine Turtles in North Queensland and Post Release Survival (Masters , Secondary Advisor)
  • Diversity, Habitat Use and Movements of Small Mammals in Fragmented Landscapes (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Vegetation Communities of Cape Your Peninsula: Evaluating Queensland's Regional Ecosystem Classification (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Using Mosquito Excreta to Enhance Mosquito-Borne Disease Surveillance (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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