Dr Nicola Kühn

Future Leader Fellow


Ecosystem Stewardship


Spatial Analysis and Data Science


Climate change ecology, biogeography, functional traits, belowground traits, trait-environment relations, remote-sensing, drylands, southern Africa.

I am interested in how vegetation responds to climate change. My research focuses on understanding the climatic and environmental drivers of plant form, function and spatial distribution and asks: which are the key plant traits that influence ecological resilience and/or sensitivity to climate change? I have a keen interest in the often neglected belowground root dimension of plants, especially in the context of water resources in drylands such as southern Africa. Further interests include relating this theory to food system applications with a current focus on underutilised edible foods which hold potential to be local, climate-smart food security solutions. For my research I collect data from fieldwork, online databases, existing studies and remote-sensing to analyse multi-scalar ecological relationships with statistical and spatial modelling techniques.

  • DPhil (PhD): “Vegetation response to climate change: a functional trait-based approach”, University of Oxford, 2021
  • MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management, University of Oxford, 2015
  • BSc postgraduate Honours in Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, 2013
  • BSc, Applied Biology and Ecology & Evolution, University of Cape Town, 2012

Kühn, N., Spiegel, MP., Tovar, C., Willis, KJ., Macia-Fauria M. (2022) 

Seeing roots from space: aboveground fingerprints of root depth in vegetation sensitivity to climate in dry biomes

Environmental Research Letters 17(11)

Kühn, N. (2022)

Vegetation response to climate change: a functional traits-based approach

PhD Thesis, University of Oxford

Kühn, N., Tovar, C., Carretero, J., Vandvik, V., Enquist, B.J. and Willis, K.J., (2021)

Globally important plant functional traits for coping with climate change.

Frontiers of Biogeography, 13(4).

Pironon, S., Etherington, T.R., Borrell, J.S., Kühn, N., Macias-Fauria, M., Ondo, I., Tovar, C., Wilkin, P. and Willis, K.J., (2019)

Potential adaptive strategies for 29 sub-Saharan crops under future climate.

Nature Climate Change.  9(10), 758-763.

Satori, D., Tovar, C., Faruk, A., Hammond Hunt, E., Muller, G., Cockel, C., Kühn, N., Leitch, I.J., Lulekal, E., Pereira, L. and Ryan, P., (2021)

Prioritising crop wild relatives to enhance agricultural resilience in sub‐Saharan Africa under climate change.

Plants, People, Planet. Nature Climate Change, 9(10), pp.758-763.

Tellez, O., Mattana, E., Diazgranados, M., Kühn, N., Castillo-Lorenzo, E., Lira, R., Montes-Leyva, L., Rodriguez, I., Ortiz, C.M.F., Way, M. and Dávila, P., (2020).

Native trees of Mexico: Diversity, distribution, uses and conservation.

PeerJ, 8, p.e9898.

Adolf, C., Tovar, C., Kühn, N., Behling, H., Berrío, J.C., Dominguez-Vázquez, G., Figueroa-Rangel, B., Gonzalez-Carranza, Z., Islebe, G.A., Hooghiemstra, H. and Neff, H., (2020)

Identifying drivers of forest resilience in long-term records from the Neotropics.

Biology letters, 16(4), p.20200005.

Kühn, N., Midgley, J. and Steenhuisen, S.L., (2017)

Reproductive biology of three co-occurring, primarily small-mammal pollinated Protea species (Proteaceae).

South African Journal of Botany, 113, pp.337-345.

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Nicola Kuhn  

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Nicola Kuhn


Nicola Kuhn


Nicola Kuhn


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