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Tropical Leaves

Jason Vleminckx

Exploring the Wonders of the Natural Sciences with R

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A Little About Me

As far as I remember, I have never seen myself doing anything else than being a scientist. Understanding life was for me a particularly intriguing field and naturally led me to become a biologist. During my Master's degree, I faced the dilemma of having to choose a specialization and discovered I was interested in all biological fields of study. I then realized that specializing in biostatistics would allow me to solve the issue, by being able to investigate various types of living communities, from tropical trees to insect or fungi. I'm amazed by the power of statistics to shed light on exciting hypotheses that aim to explain species coexistence or species diversification in natural ecosystems.
Through passion and dedication, I reached a milestone in my career when, in 2015, I achieved a PhD on the ecology of tree species in tropical forests. Since then, my research has progressed and evolved into diverse post-doctoral projects undertaken at UC Berkeley, FIU Miami, and Yale, working on the ecology of African and Amazonian forests. I am currently a Professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Botany and Ecology. I invite you to take a look at my published work to get a better idea of the fruits of my research. Feel free to get in touch with me to say hi or for more information about my work.

Home: About Me

My Research

I am a community ecologist with long-standing field, theoretical, and analytical expertise and vibrant interest in the factors explaining spatial and temporal patterns of alpha and multi-scale beta-diversity in tropical plant communities, and more recently among fungi (Basidiomycota) and invertebrate groups (ants, spiders, earthworms). More specifically, my interests focus on three axes:

(1) Global change and tropical forests ► Studying how plant species fitness changes with different climate variables in Western Amazonian forests, using a 19-year survey (435 censuses) of flower and fruit production, as well as seedling mortality (Yasuní National Park, Ecuador). These data have allowed me to emphasize a negative effect of rising night-time temperature and relative humidity on plant reproductive performance, both at the community and the species level, in a region that we thought would be more buffered from intensifying drying out occurring in the eastern Amazon basin (article under final revision for submission). This is a highly collaborative work bridging my former institution (Yale university), the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the Lewis & Clark College (Portland, OR) and the Southern Illinois University.

(2) Plant species coexistence and natural enemies ► A second axis that I have been working on is to examine how natural enemies of plants (pathogens, herbivores) contribute to maintaining species coexistence in tropical forests and how they may promote speciation events across habitat gradients (enemy-escape hypothesis). My interest for this subject originates from my first postdoctoral experience with Prof Paul Fine at IB (2016-2017), who has been at the forefront of the research on this subject in Neotropical forests.

(3) Theoretical modeling ► My past research has pushed me to get acquainted and accumulate a strong expertise in a wide range of statistical skills, including the most advanced frequentist and Bayesian methods used to analyze spatial, temporal, functional and phylogenetic data. I also benefited from two training experiences with Prof Pierre Legendre (Université de Montréal) during my PhD. These skills pushed me to develop a growing interest in resolving some theoretical issues in ecology, in particular regarding how to better describe and explain spatial structures in nature, which is a fundamental objective for many ecologists examining the determinants of Beta-diversity. In one of my articles, I had developed an R function (envspace.test, adespatial package) that tests the contribution of spatially structured environmental variables on any geo-referenced response variables, while avoiding inflation of type I error rate by taking spatial autocorrelation into account. I am currently developing a new function in R (envtime.test, to be included in the adespatial package) that allows testing the same effect but mediated by temporally structured environmental variables, at different time lags between the response(s) and the potential driver(s), and with the possibility of distinguishing between seasonal or inter-annual trend

effects. The function should greatly facilitate the exploration of the determinants of any forest dynamics response to a single or multiple fluctuating environmental variables, such as climate variables. This will be particularly useful, for instance, to survey the impact of climate changes on different ecosystem responses but also in any fields (economics, social science…) interested in examining the drivers of any type of dynamics patterns.

My main professional objective is to pursue an academic career and I am seeking for a tenure-track faculty position (I am currently not in a tenure-track position) in a public institution that would provide me great academic visibility, while maintaining active collaborations with my former academic affiliations which are mainly located in the US.

Forest Trees

Tropical Forest Ecology - Central Africa & Amazon

The exuberant biodiversity and complexity of tropical forests has always been a challenge for ecologists like me who seek to understand the functioning of these ecosystems and how they will respond to global change.

Grass and Sea

Ecological modeling with R

I have been conducting theoretical works to improve methods that are abundantly used in ecology to quantify and test the factors explaining spatial structures in the distribution of organisms in natural communities.

Couple of Penguins

Opel Project Earth Expedition

Participated to the Opel Project Earth Expedition as a scientific consultant and commentator.

Sea Sponges

Field Samplings of Benthic Invertebrates

Participated in field samplings of benthic invertebrates for biodiversity assessment studies in the littoral habitats of north Bretagne (France).

Banana Leaves

Field Inventories

Led the field inventories for his master thesis research, in a tropical forest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Yoko forest reserve, nearby Kisangani).

Grass and Flowers

Field surveys of the Ecology and Diversity of the Alpine Flora

Participated in field surveys of the ecology and diversity of the Alpine flora at the “station biologique de Peyresq” (France).

Home: Research

Published Work

J Liang, JGP Gamarra, N Picard, M Zhou, B Pijanowski, DF Jacobs, et al. (2022)
Nature ecology & evolution 6 (10), 1423-1437

C Baraloto, J Vleminckx, J Engel, P Petronelli, N Dávila, M RÍos, et al. (2021)
Ecological monographs 91 (4), e01473

A Cuni-Sanchez, MJP Sullivan, PJ Platts, SL Lewis, R Marchant, G Imani, et al. (2021)
Nature 596 (7873), 536-542

C Blundo, J Carilla, R Grau, A Malizia, L Malizia, O Osinaga-Acosta, et al. (2021)
Biological Conservation 260, 108849

J Vleminckx, C Fortunel, O Valverde‐Barrantes, CE Timothy Paine, et al. (2021)
Oikos 130 (7), 1193-1208

FC Draper, FRC Costa, G Arellano, OL Phillips, A Duque, MJ Macía, et al. (2021)
Nature Ecology & Evolution 5 (6), 757-767

AC Bennett, GC Dargie, A Cuni-Sanchez, J Tshibamba Mukendi, et al. (2021)
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118 (21), e2003169118

M Fichaux, J Vleminckx, EA Courtois, J HC Delabie, J Galli, S Tao, et al. (2021)
Biotropica 53 (1), 97-109

MJP Sullivan, SL Lewis, K Affum-Baffoe, C Castilho, F Costa, AC Sanchez, et al. (2020)
Science 368 (6493), 869-874

H Schimann, J Vleminckx, C Baraloto, J Engel, G Jaouen, E Louisanna, et al. (2020)
Biotropica 52 (3), 444-456

J Vleminckx, D Bauman, M Demanet, OJ Hardy, JL Doucet, T Drouet (2020)
Journal of Vegetation Science 31 (3), 440-453

W Hubau, SL Lewis, OL Phillips, K Affum-Baffoe, H Beeckman, et al. (2020).
Nature 579 (7797), 80-87

D Schepaschenko, J Chave, OL Phillips, SL Lewis, SJ Davies, et al. (2019)
Scientific Data 6 (1), 1-11

J Vleminckx, H Schimann, T Decaëns, M Fichaux, V Vedel, G Jaouen, et al. (2019)
Scientific reports 9 (1), 1-10

The persistence of carbon in the African forest understory.

Hubau W, et al. (2019).  Nature Plants, 5: 133–140.

Testing and interpreting the shared space-environment fraction in variation partitioning analyses of ecological data.

Bauman D, Vleminckx J, et al. (2019). Oikos, 128(2): 274–285. DOI:10.1111/oik.05496.

Coordinated beta-diversity across five taxonomic groups in Amazonian rainforests.

Vleminckx J, Schimann H, Decaëns T, Fichaux M, Vedel V, Jaouen G, Roy M, Lapied E, Engel J, Dourdain A, Petronelli P, Orivel J & Baraloto C (2019). Scientific Reports, 9: 11337.

The Forest Observation System, building a global reference dataset for remote sensing of forest biomass.

Schepaschenko D, et al. (2019). Scientific Data, 6: 198.

Pan‐tropical prediction of forest structure from the largest trees

Bastin J-F, et al. (2018). Global Ecology and Biogeography. DOI: 10.1111/geb.128.

Testing and interpreting the shared space-environment fraction in variation partitioning analyses of ecological data. Oikos, in press.

D Bauman, J Vleminckx, OJ Hardy, T Drouet. (2019)
Oikos 128 (2), 274-285

Divergent secondary metabolites and habitat filtering both contribute to tree species coexistence in the Peruvian Amazon.

Vleminckx J, Salazar D, Fortunel C, Mesones I, Davila N, Lokvam J, Beckley K, Baraloto C & Fine PVA (2018). Frontiers in Plant Science. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2018.00836.

Disentangling good from bad practices in the selection of spatial or phylogenetic eigenvectors.

Bauman D, Drouet T, Dray S, & Vleminckx J (2018). Ecography, 41: 1–12.

Field methods for sampling tree height for tropical forest biomass estimation.

Sullivan MJP, et al. (2018). Methods in Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12962.

The influence of spatially structured soil properties on tree community assemblages at a landscape scale in the tropical forests of southern Cameroon.

Vleminckx J, Doucet J-L, Morin-Rivat J, Biwolé AB, Bauman D, Fayolle A, Gillet J-F, Daïnou K, Gorel A, Hardy O & Drouet T (2017). Journal of Ecology, 105(2): 354–366.

Fine-Scale Habitats Influence Tree Species Assemblage in a Miombo Forest. Journal of Plant Ecology.

Muledi J, Bauman D, Drouet T, Vleminckx J, Lejoly J, Meerts P & Ngoy Shutcha M (2016). Journal of Plant Ecology. doi: 10.1093/jpe/rtw104.

Taller trees, denser stands and greater biomass in semi-deciduous than in evergreen lowland central African forests.

Fayolle A, Loubota Panzou GJ, Drouet T, Swaine MD, Bauwens S, Biwolé A, Vleminckx J, Doucet J-L & Lejeune P (2016). Forest Ecology and Management, 374, 42-50.

Utilité d’une typologie des exploitants artisanaux de bois pour contribuer à la formulation d’une politique publique en province Orientale (RD Congo).

Tshimpanga O, Lescuyer G, Vleminckx J, Adebu Abdala B & Lokombe D (2016). Biotechnologie, Agronomie, Société et Environnement 20(4) : 468–481.

Impact of fine-scale edaphic heterogeneity on tree species assembly in a central African rainforest.

Vleminckx J, Drouet T, Amani C, Lisingo J, Lejoly J & Hardy OJ (2015). Journal of Vegetation Science, 26(1): 134–144.

High spatial resolution of late-Holocene human activities in the moist forests of Central Africa using soil charcoal and charred botanical remains.

Morin-Rivat J, Biwolé A, Gorel A-P, Vleminckx J, Gillet J-F, Bourland N, Hardy O, Livingstone Smith A, Daïnou K, Dedry L, Doucet J-L & Beeckman H (2016). The Holocene, 26(12), 1954-1967.

Soil Charcoal to Assess the Impacts of Past Human Disturbances on Tropical Forests.

Vleminckx J, Morin-Rivat J, Biwolé AB, Daïnou K, Gillet J-F, Doucet J-L, Drouet T & Hardy OJ (2014). PLoS ONE 9(11): e108121. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0108121.

Prevalence of phylogenetic clustering at multiple scales in an African rainforest tree community.

Parmentier I, Réjou-Méchain M, Chave J, Vleminckx J, Thomas DW, Kenfack D, Chuyong GB & Hardy OJ (2014). Journal of Ecology, 102: 1008–1016.

Above-ground biomass and structure of 260 African tropical forests.

Lewis S, et al. (2013). Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society B. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0295.

Home: Publications

Career Details


Two-year postdoctoral G.E. Hutchinson fellowship from Yale University (2020) - Postdoctoral fellowship

Co-funding from ULB and Marie-Slodowska Curie fellowship from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) (2020) - Postdoctoral fellowship

Belgian American Educational Foundation (2016) – Postdoctoral fellowship 

Systematics Association Biennial conference (2015) – Travel Grant.

National Funds for Science and Research (FRS-FNRS, Belgium) (2010-2014) – PhD fellowship.

University of California, Berkeley (2013) – research collaboration in the laboratory of Prof. John Harte.

Erasmus scholarship (2009) – Training, travel and accommodation costs.

Belgian “Commission Universitaire pour le Développement” (2008) – Travel grant for master thesis field mission.

Erasmus scholarship (2007) – Training, travel and accommodation costs.


Prize for excellence in an ecology dissertation. Université Libre de Bruxelles (2009)


● British Ecological Society, Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation

● Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation


French Native, fluent in English, proficient in Spanish and Dutch.

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