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Department of Biological Sciences



Climate And Forest Ecosystem Modelling group


lab group photo


Note: Belinda Medlyn has moved to University of Western Sydney as of Feb 2015. 

 The content on this page was last updated in July 2014. For updated content, please see Belinda's unofficial website or Belinda's official UWS website 


Who are we?    What do we do?    Our links!    What are we reading?     What are we writing?


Who are we?

Our research group studies how climate change impacts on forests. We work at the "experiment-model interface" : both using experimental data to understand how climate affects forests, and using computer-based models to predict forest responses in the future.  

Group Members 

  • Assoc Prof Belinda Medlyn  
  • Post-docs:
    • Melanie Zeppel works on measuring and modelling of climate impacts on forest water use
    • Martin De Kauwe is applying the GDAY ecosystem model to forest FACE experiments
    • Yan-Shih Lin is working on the Stomatal Behaviour Synthesis Project
    • Ph D Students:
      • Sofia Baig is working on meta-analysis of CO2 experiments
      • Shuangxi Zhou is figuring out how to model drought effects on leaf gas exchange
    • M Phil Students:
      • Nathan Linforth is studying tree competition for water
  • Close collaborators
  • Completed PhD students
    • Jeff Kelly (completed 2013) Thesis: Productivity and water use of Australian tree species under climate change
    • Ashehad Ali (completed 2012) Thesis: Modelling elevated carbon dioxide impacts on plant competition.
    • Silvia Dezi (completed 2011, co-tutelle, University of Bologna) Thesis: Modelling the effects of nitrogen deposition and carbon dioxide enrichment on forest carbon balance
  • Recent visitors
    • Stephen Sitch (2013) University of Exeter, U.K. 
    • Soenke Zaehle (2013) MPI Jena, Germany
    • Anthony Walker (2013) Oak Ridge National Labs, USA
    • Lina Mercado (2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014) University of Exeter, U.K.
    • Thomas Aubier (2013) Intern, Ecole Normale Superieure, France
    • Mikko Peltoniemi (2011) University of Helsinki, Finland
    • Virginie Moreaux (2010) University of Bordeaux II, France
    • Lasse Tarvainen (2010) University of Gothenburg, Sweden


Like to join us?

Current opportunities: 

Research Scientist in Plant Molecular Ecology

PhD Scholarship: The ecological consequences of leaf protein dynamics

We're always looking for people with a strong mathematical background and an interest in plants, or a strong background in plant functional ecology and an interest in mathematical modelling. If you meet these criteria feel free to drop Belinda a line  to discuss potential projects. 


What do we do?

We research the effects of climate change on vegetation, particularly forests. We use mechanistic, process-based models to scale up from climate change experiments to make predictions about long-term effects of changing climate at landscape level. We try to bridge the gap between experiments and large-scale modelling: we work closely with experimentalists and interpret their results in ways that can be used in large-scale models such as dynamic vegetation models and climate models.

Our projects include:

Stomatal Behaviour Synthesis Project: We recently developed a new model of stomatal conductance based on the theory of optimal stomatal behaviour (Medlyn et al. 2011). The main parameter to the model (which we call g1) is linked to the marginal cost of water to the plant. We hypothesise that this parameter should vary with plant functional type and environmental conditions and we are collecting data to test these hypotheses.

Effects of CO2 on vegetation: repairing the disconnect between experiments and modelsThere have been many experiments on the effects of high CO2 on vegetation, but their results have not yet fully made their way into models. We are using meta-analysis and data analysis techniques to examine experimental results and develop better model representations of high CO2 responses.

The Hawkesbury Forest ExperimentThe Hawkesbury Forest is a large-scale climate change facility at the University of Western Sydney, where we work with scientists from UWS, UNSW, USyd, DPI, UTS, and ANU, to investigate the effects of climate change on Australian forest species. Experiments include an investigation of the interaction between rising CO2 and drought using Eucalyptus saligna trees planted in 10m tall whole-tree chambers. We provide modelling expertise to this project, contributing to design, data analysis, and interpretation of the results.

Forest FACE Model-Data Intercomparison: Together with a number of other modelling groups, we are applying models to the Duke Forest FACE and ORNL FACE high-CO2 experiments. This project will provide insight into how the models differ from each other, and how well they compare against experimental data.

NCCARF Forest Vulnerability Assessment: We contributed to a review of Australian forest vulnerability to climate change. Read more about it here


Our Links!

The MAESPA model page

GDAY model code available via github

Sydney Plant Ecophysiology Group - an occasional seminar series organised by post-doc Melanie Zeppel


Related Macquarie Biology Labs:

Michelle Leishman - Pirel (Plant Invasion and Restoration Ecology Lab)   

Ian Wright - Ian Wright's mob

Mark Westoby - Comparative Ecology

Colin Prentice - Biosphere and Climate Dynamics




ALL CAFEM Publications Since 2009

Walker AP, Hanson PJ, De Kauwe MG, Medlyn BE, Zaehle S, Asao S, Dietze M, Hickler T, Huntingford C, Iversen CM, Jain A, Lomas M, Luo Y, McCarthy H, Parton WJ, Prentice IC, Thornton PE, Wang S, Wang Y-P, Warlind S, Weng E, Warren JM, Woodward FI, Oren R, Norby RJ (2014). Comprehensive ecosystem model-data synthesis using multiple datasets at two temperate forest free-air CO2 enrichment experiments: model performance at ambient CO2 concentration. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences DOI:10.1002/2013JG002553
De Kauwe MG, Medlyn BM, Zaehle S, Walker AP, Dietze MC, Wang Y-P, Luo Y, Jain A, El-Masri B, Hickler T, Wårlind D, Weng E, Parton WJ, Thornton PE, Wang S, Prentice IC, Asao S, Smith B, McCarthy HR, Iversen CM, Hanson PJ, Warren JM, Oren R, Norby RJ (2014). Where does the carbon go? A model-data intercomparison of vegetation carbon allocation and turnover processes at two temperate forest free-air CO2 enrichment sites. New Phytologist DOI:10.1111/nph.12847

Zaehle S, Medlyn BE, De Kauwe MG, Walker AP, Dietze MC, Hickler T, Luo Y, Wang Y-P, El-Masri B, Thornton P, Jain A, Wang S, Warlind D, Weng E, Parton W, Iversen CM, Gallet-Budynek A, McCarthy H, Finzi A, Hanson PJ, Prentice IC, Oren R, Norby RJ (2014). Evaluation of 11 terrestrial carbon–nitrogen cycle models against observations from two temperate Free-Air CO2 Enrichment studies. New Phytologist DOI: 10.1111/nph.12697
Duursma, R.A., Barton, C.V.M., Lin, Y.-S., Medlyn, B.E., Eamus, D.,T Tissue, D.T., Ellsworth, D.S., and McMurtrie, R.E. (2014) The apparent feed-forward response of stomata to vapour pressure deficit in field conditions can be explained by the temperature optimum of photosynthesis. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 189-190:2-10.
Crous KY, Quentin A, Lin Y-S, Barton CVM, Medlyn BE, Williams D, Ellsworth DS. (2013) Photosynthesis of temperate Eucalyptus globulus trees outside their native range has limited adjustment to elevated CO2 and climate warming. Global Change Biology, DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12314
Lin, Y-S., Medlyn, B. E., De Kauwe, M. G., and Ellsworth D. E. (2013) Biochemical photosynthetic responses to temperature: how do interspecific differences compare with seasonal shifts? Tree Physiology 33 (8): 793-806.
De Kauwe, M. G., Taylor, C., M., Harris, P., Weedon, G. and Ellis, R. J. (2013) Quantifying Land Surface Temperature Variability for Two Sahelian Mesoscale Regions during the Wet Season. Journal of Hydrometeorology, 14(5):1605-1619
Crous, K. Y., Quentin, A. G., Lin, Y-S., Medlyn, B. E., Williams, D. G., Barton, C. V. M., Ellsworth, D. S. (2013) Photosynthesis of temperate Eucalyptus globulus trees outside their native range has limited adjustment to elevated CO2 and climate warming. Global Change Biology, 19(12):3790-3807
Medlyn, B. and De Kauwe, M. (2013) Biogeochemistry: Carbon dioxide and water use in forests. Nature, 
Morfopolous C, Prentice IC, Keenan TF, Friedlingstein P, Medlyn BE, Possell M (2013) A unifying conceptual model for the environmental responses of isoprene emissions from plants. Annals of Botany, accepted 28/6/13
Zhou S, Duursma RA, Medlyn BE, Kelly JW, Prentice IC. (2013) How should we model plant responses to drought? An analysis of stomatal and non-stomatal responses to water stress. Agricultural Forest Meteorology doi: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2013.05.009
Medlyn BE, Duursma RA, De Kauwe MG, Prentice IC (2013). The optimal stomatal response to atmospheric CO2 concentration: alternative solutions, alternative interpretations. Agricultural Forest Meteorology  doi: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2013.04.019 
Ali AA, Medlyn BE, Crous KY, Reich PB (2013) A trait-based ecosystem model analysis suggests intrinsically slow-growing plants are more responsive to rising atmospheric CO2 concentration than fast-growing plants in field conditions. Functional Ecology DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12102.
Zeppel MJB (2013) Convergence of tree water use and hydraulic architecture in water-limited regions: a review and synthesis. Ecohydrology, In Press.
De Kauwe MG, Medlyn BE, Zaehle S, Walker AP, Dietze MC, Hickler T, Jain AK, Luo Y, Parton WJ, Prentice IC, Smith B, Thornton PE, Wang S, Wang Y-P, Wårlind D, Weng ES, Crous KY, Ellsworth DS, Hanson PJ, Seok-Kim H, Warren JM, Oren R, Norby RJ (2013) Forest water use and water use efficiency at elevated CO2: a model-data intercomparison at two contrasting temperate forest FACE sites. Global Change Biology 19: 1759-1779. 
Hall SM, Medlyn BE, Räntfors M, Abramowitz G, Franklin O, Linder S, Wallin G (2013) What are the main mechanisms by which elevated [CO2] and temperature affect shoot carbon uptake in boreal Norway spruce? Tree Physiology doi: 10.1093/treephys/tpt014
Harrison SP, Morfopoulos C, Srikanta Dani KG, Prentice IC, Arneth A, Atwell BJ, Barkley MP, Leishman MR, Loreto F, Medlyn BE, Niinemets U, Possell M, Peñuelas J, Wright IJ (2013) Volatile isoprenoid emissions from plastid to planet. New Phytologist 197: 49-57.
Duursma RA, Payton P, Bange MP, Broughton KJ, Smith RA, Medlyn BE, Tissue DT (2013) Near-optimal response of instantaneous transpiration efficiency to vapour pressure deficit, temperature and [CO2] in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 168: 168-176.
Héroult A, Lin Y-S, Bourne A, Medlyn BE, Ellsworth DS (2013) Optimal stomatal conductance in relation to photosynthesis in climatically contrasting Eucalyptus species under drought. Plant, Cell and Environment 36: 262-274.
Duursma RA & Medlyn BE (2012) MAESPA: A model to study interactions between water limitation, environmental drivers and vegetation function at tree and stand levels, with an example application to [CO2] x drought interactions. Geoscientific Model Development 5 : 919-940
Peltoniemi M, Duursma RA and Medlyn BE (2012) Co-optimal distribution of leaf nitrogen and hydraulic conductance in plant canopies. Tree Physiology doi 10.1023/treephys/tps023

Whitley R, Taylor D, Macinnis-Ng C, Zeppel M, Yunusa I, O’Grady A, Froend R, Medlyn B, Eamus D (2012) Developing an empirical model of canopy water flux describing the common response of transpiration to solar radiation and VPD across five contrasting woodlands and forests. Hydrological Processes doi 10.1002/hyp.9280

McMurtrie RE, Iversen CM, Dewar RC, Medlyn BE, Näsholm T, Pepper DA, Norby RJ (2012) Increased plant nitrogen-uptake efficiency at elevated CO2 explained by an hypothesis of optimal root foraging. Ecology & Evolution doi: 10.1002/ece3.266

Lin Y-S, Medlyn BE, Ellsworth DS (2012) Temperature responses of leaf photosynthesis: the role of component processes. Tree Physiology 32 (2): 219-231.

Zeppel MJB, Lewis JD, Chaszar B, Smith RA, Medlyn BE, Huxman TE, Tissue DT (2012) Nocturnal stomatal conductance responses to rising [CO2], temperature and drought. New Phytologist 193: 929-938

Duursma RA, Falster DS, Valladares F, Sterck FJ, Pearcy RW, Lusk CH, Sendall KM, M. Nordenstahl M, Houter NC, Atwell BJ, Kelly N, Kelly JWG, Liberloo M, Tissue DT, Medlyn BE and Ellsworth DS (2012) Light interception efficiency explained by two simple variables: a test using a diversity of small- to medium-sized woody plants. New Phytologist 193: 397-408.

Barton CVM, Duursma RA, Medlyn BE, Ellsworth DS, Eamus D, Tissue DT, Adams MA, Conroy JP, Crous KY, Liberloo M, Löw M, Linder S, McMurtrie RE (2012) Effects of elevated CO2 on instantaneous transpiration efficiency at leaf and canopy scales in Eucalyptus saligna. Global Change Biology 18: 585-595.

Medlyn BE (2011) Comment on “Drought-Induced Reduction in Global Terrestrial Net Primary Production from 2000 to 2009”. Science 333 DOI: 10.1126/science.1199544

Kattge J + 120 authors incl. Medlyn BE (2011) TRY – a global database of plant traits. Global Change Biology 17: 2905-2935

Moreaux V, Lamaud E, Bosc A, Bonnefond J-M, Medlyn B, Loustau D (2011) Paired comparison of energy, water and carbon exchanges over two young maritime pine stands (Pinus pinaster Ait.): effects of thinning and weeding in the early stage of tree growth. Tree Physiology 31:903-921.

Duursma RA, Barton CVM, Eamus D, Medlyn BE, Ellsworth DS, Forster M, Tissue DT, Linder S, McMurtrie RE (2011) Rooting depth explains [CO2] x drought interaction in Eucalyptus saligna. Tree Physiology 31: 922-931.

Zeppel MJB, Lewis JD, Medlyn BE, Barton CVM, Duursma RA, Eamus D, Adams MA, Phillips N, Ellsworth DS, Forster M, Tissue DT (2011) Interactive effects of elevated CO2 and drought on nocturnal water fluxes in Eucalyptus saligna. Tree Physiology 31: 932-944.

Medlyn BE, Duursma RA, Zeppel MJB (2011) Forest productivity under climate change: a checklist for evaluating model studies. WIRES Climate Change 2: 332-355.

Medlyn BE, Duursma RA, Eamus D, Ellsworth DS, Prentice IC, Barton CVM, de Angelis P, Crous KY, Freeman M, Wingate L (2011) Reconciling the optimal and empirical approaches to modelling stomatal conductance. Global Change Biology 17: 2134-2144.

Medlyn, B. E., Zeppel, M., Brouwers, N. C., Howard, K., O’Gara, E., Hardy, G., Lyons, T., Li,L. and Evans, B. (2011) Biophysical impacts of climate change on Australia's forests. Contribution of Work Package 2 to the Forest Vulnerability Assessment, Gold Coast, Australia, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. Available at:

Dieleman WIJ, Luyssaert S, Rey A, De Angelis P, Barton CVM, Broadmeadow MSJ, Broadmeadow SB, Chigwerewe KS, Crookshanks M, Dufrêne E, Jarvis PG, Kasurinen A, Kellomäki S, Le Dantec V, Liberloo M, Marek M, Medlyn B, Pokorný R, Scarascia-Mugnozza G, Temperton VM, Tingey D, Urban O, Ceulemans R and Janssens IA (2010) Soil [N] modulates soil C cycling in CO2-fumigated tree stands: a meta-analysis. Plant, Cell & Environment 33: 2001-2011.

Norby RJ, Warren JM, Iversen CM, Medlyn BE, McMurtrie RE (2010) CO2 Enhancement of Forest Productivity Constrained by Limited Nitrogen Availability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 45: 19368-19373.

Barton CVM, Ellsworth DS, Medlyn BE, Duursma RA, Tissue DT, Adams MA, Eamus D, Conroy JP, McMurtrie RE, Parsby J, Linder S (2010). Whole-tree chambers for elevated atmospheric CO2 experimentation and tree-scale flux measurements in south-eastern Australia: the Hawkesbury Forest Experiment. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 150:941-951.

Dezi S, Medlyn BE, Tonon G, Magnani F (2010) The effect of nitrogen deposition on forest carbon sequestration: a model-based analysis. Global Change Biology 16: 1470-1486.

Keith H, Leuning R, Jacobsen KL, Cleugh HA, van Gorsel E, Raison RJ, Medlyn BE, Winters A, Keitel C (2009) Multiple measurements constrain estimates of net carbon exchange by a Eucalyptus forest. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 149:535-548.

Whitley R, Zeppel M, Medlyn B, and Eamus D. (2009) Comparing the Penman-Monteith equation and a modified Jarvis-Stewart model with an artificial neural network to estimate stand-scale water use. Journal of Hydrology 373:256-266.


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