Dr. Bénédicte Bachelot

Climate change alters biotic controls of plant demography

Contributed by Bénédicte Bachelot @BeneBachelot


Biodiversity, Caribbean, Climate change, Community ecology, Conservation, Density-mediated, Ecology, Environmental change, Field, Forest, Fundamental research, Gay, Interactions, LGBTQIA+, Observational, Physiological/organismal ecology, Plants, Restoration, Species richness, Terrestrial, Theory/Computational, Woman



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Benedicte Bachelot, Aura M. Alonso‐Rodríguez, Laura Aldrich‐Wolfe, Molly A. Cavaleri, Sasha C. Reed, Tana E. Wood. 2020. Altered climate leads to positive density‐dependent feedbacks in a tropical wet forest. Global Change Biology 26(6): 3417-3428. link 



Slide 1: Researcher’s Background

Bénédicte is a quantitative plant community ecologist at Oklahoma State University. She studies the role of biotic interactions in the maintenance of a high diversity of tropical plants. 


PB: Why did you become a biologist?

BB: I grew up in a family of scientists, both my parents are mathematicians. I wanted to combine my love of the outdoors and numbers. Ecology became an obvious choice!


PB: What is your favorite part about your job?

BB: My favorite part of my job is traveling to new forests!


PB: What obstacles have you overcome to get where you are?

BB: Being a woman and married to a woman has had some challenges. Learning how “to come out” to my colleagues at different stages of my career has been and remains hard. 


PB: What advice do you have for aspiring biologists?

BB: If you want to be a biologist, then go for it and don’t let people push you away. It is a wonderful job!


PB: Do you feel that any dimension of your identity is invisible or under-represented/marginalized in STEM?

BB: Maybe. I am a woman, married to another woman, and we’ve recently welcomed our first child. It is certainly not unique, but for now, I do not have a colleague with a similar identity. Is it because we are under-represented? Maybe. 


Slide 2: Research Overview

Take home message of the paper:

In this 2020 study, Bachelot et al. investigated the effect of altered climate on seedling growth and survival in a neotropical forest. Growth and survival of seedlings was less reduced (even increased) by the presence of conspecific neighbors under altered climate compared to control conditions. This reduction of negative density dependence can threaten the diversity of tropical wet forest if climate continues to become warmer and dryer.


Study system

One of the 3 control plots of the Tropical Responses to Altered Climate Experiment in Puerto Rico. In each of the 6 plots (3 control and 3 warming plots), Bachelot and co-authors follow the dynamics of seedlings.


Slide 3: Key Research Points

Main figure

Seedling probability of mortality as a function of conspecific seedling density for control, drought, and in situ warming treatments. Thin dashed lines represent the 95% credible intervals, and thick lines show the mean posterior. We observed negative-density dependent mortality in the control plots (black) but positive-density dependent mortality in the warming plots (red). The relationship between probability of mortality during the drought event and conspecific seedling density is not significant (blue). 


Societal relevance

This work is really important as it helps us understand how tropical forests are responding to climate change. We need such knowledge in order to protect these key ecosystems.

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