Forest Physiology & Biotechnology


Graeme Pierce Berlyn, Ph.D., E. H. Harriman Professor of Forest Management and Anatomy & Physiology of Trees. Editor, Journal of Sustainable Forestry

Begonia stomata (photo by Graeme Berlyn)

The Program on Forest Physiology and Biotechnology (PFPB) focuses on the relationships of physiology, morphology, and genetics of forest plants to forest carbon sequestration, silviculture and sustainable forestry. The Program’s objectives are to analyze ecosystem impacts of forest management and biotechnology from biological, climatological, technical, and cultural perspectives; to evaluate strategies to minimize possible deleterious effects in these several dimensions.   The program organizes forums and publications for discussion of the role of physiology, morphology, and genetics on climate, forest health and forest tree improvement in ways that do not represent biological hazard to the future forests of the world.

Current research is focused around several projects, the first is a forest carbon project involving the anatomical, physiological, and optical properties of leaves in relation to (a) light intensity and quality, (b) distribution in tree crowns, (c) nutrient status, and (d) ecology and silviculture. A goal of this work is to scale up from the leaf to the tree to the canopy and forest by interfacing spectral reflectance and chlorophyll fluorescence with hyperspectral data from high-resolution remote sensing. It is thought that these methods can provide reliable measurements of forest health, carbon sequestration, and seagrass health in coastal zones. Ultimately, these signals may also identify distribution of species within forests along with measurements of foliar function such as photosynthesis, and cellular phenotypic plasticity of leaves (palisade/spongy parenchyma/ sun/shade). Such evaluations can be useful in evaluating sustainability under a variety of site conditions. In conjunction with these approaches, we are cooperating on studies of the anatomy and physiology of trees in many different areas of the world to determine optimal habitats for native species for sustainable forestry.  We have also extended these methods to be used in coastal studies of macroalga and seagrass communities in relations to restoration and pollution hazards.

In conjunction with the program Philip Marshall is studying historical and physiological ecology of eastern white pine (Pinus strobus L.) in the northeastern uplands of Connecticut.  This involves determining the historical niche in pre-settlement times.  The key to this is white pine's ability to colonize extreme sites and experiments are being conducted to quantify this.

Another completed project (Uromi Goodale) involves the ecophysiology of six native pioneer species in response to change in light conditions in wet lowland rainforests of Sri Lanka.  The light environment has been monitored and photosynthesis of these species in these various light environments has also been measured. A structural analysis of the leaf level response is in progress as is data analysis of the biomass effects.

We also have an on-going study of the ecophysiology of Acacia koa forests in Hawaii  (Dylan Craven, Sharifa Gulamhussein).   A paper on this research has been submitted .  Dylan Craven is studying functional diversity of secondary succession of plant communities within a tropical agricultural landscape in the Republic of Panama.

Another major theme of the program concerns the development and use of organic biostimulants to maintain optimum plant growth while reducing fertilizer requirements and increasing natural stress resistance with respect to water, disease, insects, and toxic substances. Professor Berlyn was one of the originators of the modern biostimulant concept for amplifying plant growth and stress resistance by utilizing some of the components developed in tissue culture research for biotechnology. Current work involves the role of antioxidants and interactions of biostimulants with mycorrhizas and possible beneficial microorganisms that inhibit pathogenesis and increases the natural resistance of the plant using chemical signaling to stimulate the production of protective compounds and protective tissues. Efforts are under way to improve the antioxidant systems in tree leaves in order to alleviate stress and increase photosynthesis.  We are also working with biochar, humic acids and combinations of plants with abundant stress compounds with signaling substances.


Mark Ashton, Ph.D., Silviculture

Vimla Bisht, Ph.D., Greenhouse Assistant

Ann Camp, Ph.D., Silviculture, Forest Health

Uromi Goodale, Ph.D., Ecophysiology and Associate Editor of the Journal of Sustainable Forestry

Philip Marshall, Ph.D. candidate, Associate Editor, Journal of Sustainable Forestry

Florencia Montagnini, Ph.D., Tropical Forestry and Agroforestry

Chadwick Oliver, Ph.D., Silviculture and Forest Management

Nancy Marek,  MFS, Greenhouse Assistant, Editorial Assistant,  Journal of Sustainable Forestry

Helen Mills Poulos, Ph.D., Ecophysiology, Spectral Reflectance, GIS/Remote Sensing

Kalyanakrishnan Sivaramakrishnan, Ph.D., Environmental Anthropology

Rajesh Thadani, Ph.D., Forest Management, Organic Biostimulants, Ecophysiology,

Anitra Thorhaug, Ph.D., Seagrass and Macroalgae project, Coastal and Marine Restoration and Management


Philip Marshall, MFS-Assistant Editor of JSF, Greenhouse Co-Director, White Pine Historical Ecology and Physiological Ecology Project

Dylan Craven, Ecophysiology, Panama Project


Gillian Paul, Senior Editorial Assistant, Journal of Sustainable Forestry

Lucien Bouffard, Editorial Assistant, Journal of Sustainable Forestry

Hui Cheng, Greenhouse/Laboratory Assistant

Grant Tolley, Editorial Assistant, Sustainable Forestry

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