Palm Hydraulics > Kew Science > Projects > PalmHydraulics: linking biodiversity and functioning of tropical forests under climate change

PalmHydraulics: linking biodiversity and functioning of tropical forests under climate change

A Marie Skłodowska-Curie project to explore the links between biodiversity and tropical forest functioning, using palms as a model.

Project details

Project Leader: 
Funded By: 
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship

Objectives and outputs

How do biodiversity and ecosystem functioning respond to climate change?

Currently, fundamental knowledge gaps prevent us from answering this most pressing question. Global climate is largely dependent on tropical forest functioning due to the scale of plant-driven ecosystem services that they provide (water and carbon cycling). Thus, research on tropical plants is essential to address this question. However, critical plant groups such as palms, which are hyperdominant in tropical forests, remain almost entirely neglected.

Palms in the context of tropical plants hydraulics

Palms are remarkable for their very efficient vascular system but also for their very wide range of size and growth forms, ranging from minute acaulescent herbs to 60 m trees and 200 m lianas. Whilst complying to the same hydraulic rules as other plants, being monocots, palms are also structurally constrained, which provides a controlled framework for hydraulic structure comparisons. However, these structural constraints also account for the uniqueness of palms. Hydraulic functioning is almost entirely unknown in palms, despite their importance, which justifies the need for data specific to palms.

Trait mediated responses to climate change across space and time

Plant hydraulics mediate plant species responses to climate. PalmHydraulics will study structure, ecology and evolution of traits that are critical to plant hydraulic functioning processes in palms. Novel and extensive datasets will be produced and made openly accessible alongside relevant publications. Thus, PalmHydraulics aims to bring new insights into the understanding of the link between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning under climate change.

RBG Kew’s role in PalmHydraulics

This comprehensive, ambitious approach builds on the world leadership of RBG Kew in integrated studies of the palm family, plant morphology and evolution. Within RBG Kew, PalmHydraulics creates opportunities for valuable synergies between one of the world’s largest herbaria, extensive living collections, and state-of-the-art laboratory facilities to deliver world class, relevant science.


PalmHydraulics aims to address the following questions:

  • What are the mechanisms underlying trade-off in plant hydraulic traits?
  • Are the trade-offs in plant hydraulic traits the keys to species diversification?
  • Is variability in plant hydraulic traits related to species distribution?
  • Can plant hydraulic traits predict plant survival and ecosystem services under changing climates?


  • Palm hydraulic trait protocols.
  • Palm hydraulic trait database.
  • Research and review papers.
  • Educational video on palm hydraulics.
  • Functional traits training course.

Partners and collaborators


University of Leeds