Prof. Roel Brienen


I am professor in Forest Ecology and Global Change. My interests are in understanding forest responses to climate and CO2. To do this I use a variety of methods, including tree rings, isotopes, and permanent sample plot monitoring. OVer the past decade my main research has focussed on the Amazon basin. 

Recent research includes the use of oxygen isotopes to study changes in the Amazon hydrological cycle, carbon isotopes in tree rings to assess trees intrinsic water use efficiency responses to CO2 and climate, and studies on the biomass dynamics of Amazonian forests using large scale permanent sample plot networks. 

At the School of Geography, I lead the tree ring lab where we have facilities to prepare and measure tree rings for standard ring width analysis and isotopes. 

Key publications



On the growth life span trade-offs 

On the Amazon sink 

On oxygen isotopes in Amazon 


PhD Supervision 

I would be interested in supervisiong students on topics such as 

  • Tropical forest ecology and dynamics
  • Tree rings and tree physiology 
  • Isotopes in tree rings
  • Palaeo-climate reconstrcutions in the tropics

Research interests

I am particularly interested in feedbacks between the earth's biosphere and climate, with a focus on the response of tropical forests to climate change and CO2. In much of my research I use tree rings and isotopes (δ13C, δ18O) to study physiological responses of trees to climate and atmospheric CO2, but also as a tool to reconstruct and understand recent changes in climate. I am further interested in forest dynamics, and the possible impacts of recent climate change on tree turnover and mortality.

PhD Students (past and current)

  • Jessica Baker (2013-2017) -Unravelling the drivers of short- and long-term variability in the Amazon hydrological cycle using tree-ring oxygen isotopes.
  • Bruno Barcante Ladvocat (2014-now)- Spatial-temporal reconstruction of Amazon flood pulse and dry season length over the past century using tree rings and isotopes of floodplain tree species Macrolobium acaciifolium
  • Liam Caldwell (2018) – Live fast, die young? A global analysis of the trade-off between tree growth rates and longevity. 
  • Alex Chambers -Ostler (2017 now) - The hydraulic limitation of tree height of tropical trees
  • Peter Joyce (2017-now) - How will Northern EcosystemsRespond to Global Environmental Change
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD, Plant Ecology, Utrecht University
  • MSc, Ecology, University of Groningen

Research groups and institutes

  • Ecology and Global Change
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>
    <li><a href="//">The fate of forests on a warming planet: assessing climate sensitivity of tree species using tree rings</a></li>