Canada Research Chair in Plant Functional Biodiversity

Chairholder: Etienne Laliberté

EtienneLaliberteWe have entered the “Anthropocene”: a period characterized by the Earth’s sixth major species extinction, driven by human activities. However, we are ill-equipped to predict changes in biodiversity and the consequences of those changes for ecosystem functioning. Furthermore, these changes greatly outpace our ability to monitor them, which makes it difficult to prioritize our conservation actions.

As Canada Research Chair in Plant Functional Biodiversity, dr. Etienne Laliberté and his research team are tackling these two key challenges. They are trying to better understand and predict changes in plant biodiversity and the corresponding consequences at the ecosystem level by studying the morphological and physiological adaptations of plants – called “functional traits” – in changing environments.

Laliberté and his team are also studying the remarkably similar yet unique way that every plant species interacts with solar radiation, caused by subtle differences in the chemical make-up of their leaves. Such species-specific “spectral signatures” provide the foundational data that is needed for high-resolution remote sensing of plant biodiversity.

By unravelling the links between plant evolution, functional traits, and leaf spectral signatures, Laliberté’s research will shed new light on the causes and consequences of changing plant biodiversity, and pave the way for the creation of a global plant biodiversity observatory based on remote sensing of plant functional traits.