Miles Silman

Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Professor of Conservation Biology and
Director, Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability

Miles Silman

B.S. Biology, University of Missouri (1989)
Ph.D. Zoology, Duke University (1996)

134 Winston Hall

(336) 758-5596


Areas of Interest

Tropical Forest Ecology, Conservation Biology, Community and Population Ecology


My primary interests are community composition and dynamics of Andean and Amazonian tree communities in both space and time. The lab’s current research focuses on combining modern- and paleoecology to understand tree distributions and plant-climate relationships in the Andes and Amazon. The work is focused on the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes and the adjacent Amazonian plain, with a particular emphasis in distributions along environmental gradients, be they in space or time, and includes both empirical work and modeling. Our main study site now is a 3 km altitudinal transect from tree line to the Amazon plain in SE Peru, and we have 27 years of experience in the western Amazon and Andes.

Other studies include experimental work on tree life history and tropical tree community structure, plant-animal interactions and biodiversity maintenance in tropical forests, large-scale analyses of tree species composition in Amazonia, and inverse modeling of climate from plant community composition.

Recent Publications (grad students in bold) (all publications)

Clark, K., A. West, R. Hilton, G. Asner, C. Quesada, M. Silman, S. Saatchi, W. Farfan-Rios, R. Martin, and A. Horwath. 2016. Storm-triggered landslides in the Peruvian Andes and implications for topography, carbon cycles, and biodiversity. Earth Surface Dynamics 4:47.

Feeley, K. J., and M. R. Silman. 2016. Disappearing climates will limit the efficacy of Amazonian protected areas. Diversity and Distributions, in press.

Malhi, Y., C. Girardin, G. Goldsmith, C. Doughty, N. Salinas, M. Silman, D. Metcalfe, W. Huaraca Huasco, J. Silva-Especjo, J. del Aguilla-Pasquell, and F. Farfan Amezquita. 2016. The variation of productivity and its allocation along a tropical elevation gradient: a whole carbon budget perspective. New Phytologist, in press.

Messinger, M., G. P. Asner, and M. Silman. 2016. Rapid Assessments of Amazon Forest Structure and Biomass Using Small Unmanned Aerial Systems. Remote Sensing 8:615.

Messinger, M., and M. Silman. 2016. Unmanned aerial vehicles for the assessment and monitoring of environmental contamination: An example from coal ash spills. Environmental Pollution, in press.

Báez, S., A. Malizia, J. Carilla, C. Blundo, M. Aguilar, N. Aguirre, Z. Aquirre, E. Álvarez, F. Cuesta, M. Silman and Á. Duque. 2015. Large-Scale Patterns of Turnover and Basal Area Change in Andean Forests. PLoS One, in press.

Bush, M. B., A. M. Alfonso‐Reynolds, D. H. Urrego, B. G. Valencia, Y. A. Correa‐Metrio, M. Zimmermann, and M. R. Silman. 2015. Fire and climate: contrasting pressures on tropical Andean timberline species. Journal of Biogeography 42:938-950.

Bush, M. B., C. H. McMichael, D. R. Piperno, M. R. Silman, J. Barlow, C. A. Peres, M. Power, and M. W. Palace. 2015. Anthropogenic influence on Amazonian forests in pre‐history: An ecological perspective. Journal of Biogeography 42:2277-2288.

Clark, K., A. West, R. Hilton, G. Asner, C. Quesada, M. Silman, S. Saatchi, W. Farfan-Rios, R. Martin, and A. Horwath. 2015. Storm-triggered landslides in the Peruvian Andes and implications for topography, carbon cycles, and biodiversity. Earth Surface Dynamics Discussions 3:631-688.

Farfan-Rios, W., K. Garcia-Cabrera, N. Salinas, M. N. Raurau-Quisiyupanqui, and M. R. Silman. 2015. Lista anotada de árboles y afines en los bosques montanos del sureste peruano: la importancia de seguir recolectando. Revista Peruana de Biología 22:145-174.

Feeley, K. J., M. R. Silman, and A. Duque. 2015. Where are the tropical plants? A call for better inclusion of tropical plants in studies investigating and predicting the effects of climate change. Frontiers of Biogeography 7.

Honorio Coronado, E. N., K. G. Dexter, R. T. Pennington, J. Chave, S. L. Lewis, M. N. Alexiades, E. Alvarez, A. Alves de Oliveira, I. L. Amaral, M. Silman, W. Farfan-Rios, and  A. Araujo‐Murakami. 2015. Phylogenetic diversity of Amazonian tree communities. Diversity and Distributions 21:1295-1307.

Ter Steege, H., N. C. Pitman, T. J. Killeen, W. F. Laurance, C. A. Peres, J. E. Guevara, R. P. Salomão, C. V. Castilho, I. L. Amaral, M. Silman, and  F. D. de Almeida Matos. 2015. Estimating the global conservation status of more than 15,000 Amazonian tree species. Science Advances 1:e1500936.

Girardin, C. A. J., J. E. S. Espejob, C. E. Doughty, W. H. Huasco, D. B. Metcalfe, L. Durand-Baca, T. R. Marthews, L. E. O. C. Aragao, W. Farfan Rios, K. Garcia Cabrera, M. R. Silman, P. Meir, and Y. Malhi. 2014. Productivity and carbon allocation in a tropical montane cloud forest in the Peruvian Andes. Plant Ecology & Diversity: 1-17.

Girardin, C. A. J., W. Farfan Rios, K. Garcia, K. J. Feeley, P. M. Jorgensen, A. A. Murakami, L. Cayola Perez, R. Seidel, N. Paniagua, A. F. Fuentes Claros, and M. R. Silman. 2014. Spatial patterns of above-ground structure, biomass and composition in a network of six Andean elevation transects. Plant Ecology & Diversity: 1-11.

Gurdak, D. J., L. E. O. C. Aragao, A. Rozas-Da¡vila, W. H. Huasco, K. G. Cabrera, C. E. Doughty, W. Farfan-Rios, J. E. Silva-Espejo, D. B. Metcalfe, and M. R. Silman. 2014. Assessing above-ground woody debris dynamics along a gradient of elevation in Amazonian cloud forests in Peru: balancing above-ground inputs and respiration outputs. Plant Ecology & Diversity: 1-18.

Román-Cuesta, R. M., C. Carmona-Moreno, G. Lizcano, M. New, M. Silman, T. Knoke, Y. Malhi, I. Oliveras, H. Asbjornsen, and M. Vuille. 2014. Synchronous fire activity in the tropical high Andes: an indication of regional climate forcing. Global change biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12538

Wyatt, J. L., and M. R. Silman. 2014. Long-Term Effects of Clearcutting in the Southern Appalachians. in F. Gilliam, editor. The Herbaceous Layer in Forests of  Eastern North America. 2nd edition. Oxford USA, New York.

Pitman,N.C.A., J.E. Guevara Andino, M. Aulestia, C.E. Cerón, D.A. Neill, W. Palacios, G. Rivas-Torres, M.R. Silman, & J.W. Terborgh. 2014. Distribution and abundance of tree species in swamp forests of Amazonian Ecuador. Ecography 37: 1-14.

Huasco, W. H., C. A. J. Girardin, C. E. Doughty, D. B. Metcalfe, L. D. Baca, J. E. Silva-Espejo, D. G. Cabrera, L. Aragao, A. R. Davila, T. R. Marthews, L. P. Huaraca-Quispe, I. Alzamora-Taype, L. E. Mora, W. Farfan-Rios, K. G. Cabrera, K. Halladay, N. Salinas-Revilla, M. R. Silman, P. Meir, and Y. Malhi. 2014. Seasonal production, allocation and cycling of carbon in two mid-elevation tropical montane forest plots in the Peruvian Andes. Plant Ecology & Diversity 7:125-142.

Silman, M. R. 2014. Functional megadiversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 111:5763-5764.

Asner, G. P., D. E. Knapp, R. E. Martin, R. Tupayachi, C. B. Anderson, J. Mascaro, F. Sinca, K. D. Chadwick, S. Sousan, M. Higgins, W. Farfan, M. R. Silman, W. A. Llactayo, and A. F. Neyra. 2014. The Carbon Geography of Perú. Minuteman Press, Berkeley, CA.

Malhi, Y., Gardener, T.A., Goldsmith, G.R., Silman, M.R., Zelazowski, P. 2014. Tropical forests in the Anthropocene. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 39.

Asner, G. P., D. E. Knapp, R. E. Martin, R. Tupayachi, C. B. Anderson, J. Mascaro, F. Sinca, K. D. Chadwick, S. Sousan, M. Higgins, W. Farfan, W. A. Llactayo, A. F. Neyra, and M. R. Silman. 2014. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 111 (47): E5016-E5022

Rapp, J. M. and M. R. Silman. 2014. Epiphyte response to drought and experimental warming. F1000Research 3:7

Feeley, K. J.,  J. Hurtado, S. Saatchi, M. R. Silman, and D. B. Clark. 2013. Compositional shifts in Costa Rican forests due to climate driven species migrations. Global Change Biology 19:3472–3480

Lutz, D. A., R. L. Powell, and M. R. Silman. 2013. Four Decades of Andean Timberline Migration and Implications for Biodiversity Loss with Climate Change. PLoS One 8: e74496.

McMichael, C. H., M. B. Bush, M. R. Silman, D. R. Piperno, M. Raczka, L. C. Lobato, M. Zimmerman, S. Hagen, and M. Palace. 2013. Historical fire and bamboo dynamics in western Amazonia. Journal of Biogeography 40: 299-309.

Pitman, N. C. A., M. R. Silman, and J. W. Terborgh. 2013. Oligarchies in Amazonian tree communities: a ten year review. Ecography 36: 114-123.

ter Steege, H., N. C. A. Pitman, D. Sabatier, C. Baraloto, R. P. Salomao, J. E. Guevara, O. L. Phillips, C. V. Castilho, W. E. Magnusson, and J.-F. o. Molino, et al. 2013. Hyperdominance in the Amazonian tree flora. Science 342: 1243092.

KJ Feeley, Y Malhi, P Zelazowski, and MR Silman. 2012. The relative importance of deforestation, precipitation change, and temperature sensitivity in determining the future distributions and diversity of Amazonian plant species. Global Change Biology 18:2636-2647.

N Fierer,CM McCain, P Meir, M Zimmermann, JM Rapp, MR Silman, and R Knight. 2011. Microbes do not follow the elevational diversity patterns of plants and animals. Ecology 92:797-804.

JE Jankowski, CL Merkord, WF Rios, KG Cabrera, NS Revilla, and MRSilman. 2012. The relationship of tropical bird communities to tree species composition and vegetation structure along an Andean elevational gradient. Journal of Biogeography.WF Laurance, DC Useche, et al. 2012. Averting biodiversity collapse in tropical forest protected areas. Nature 489:290-+.

CH McMichael, MB Bush, DR Piperno, MR Silman, AR Zimmerman, and C Anderson. 2012. Spatial and temporal scales of pre-Columbian disturbance associated with western Amazonian lakes. Holocene 22:131-141.

CH McMichael, MB Bush, MR Silman, DR Piperno, M Raczka, LC Lobato, M Zimmerman, S Hagen, and M Palace. 2012. Historical fire and bamboo dynamics in western Amazonia. Journal of Biogeography.

CH McMichael, DR Piperno, MB Bush, MR Silman, AR Zimmerman, MF Raczka, and LC Lobato. 2012. Sparse Pre-Columbian Human Habitation in Western Amazonia. Science 336:1429-1431.

JM Rappand MR Silman. 2012. Diurnal, seasonal, and altitudinal trends in microclimate across a tropical montane cloud forest. Climate Research 55:17-+.

JM Rapp, MR Silman, JS Clark, CAJ Girardin, D Galiano, and R Tito. 2012. Intra- and interspecific tree growth across a long altitudinal gradient in the Peruvian Andes. Ecology 93:2061-2072.

RM Roman-Cuesta, N Salinas, H Asbjornsen, I Oliveras, V Huaman, Y Gutierrez, L Puelles, J Kala, D Yabar, M Rojas, R Astete, DY Jordan, M Silman, R Mosandl, M Weber, B Stimm, S Gunter, T Knoke, and Y Malhi. 2011. Implications of fires on carbon budgets in Andean cloud montane forest: The importance of peat soils and tree resprouting. Forest Ecology and Management 261:1987-1997.

SS Saatchi, NL Harris, S Brown, M Lefsky, ETA Mitchard, W Salas, BR Zutta, W Buermann, SL Lewis, S Hagen, S Petrova, L White, M Silman, and A Morel. 2011. Benchmark map of forest carbon stocks in tropical regions across three continents. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108:9899-9904.

N Salinas, Y Malhi, P Meir, M Silman, RR Cuesta, J Huaman, D Salinas, V Huaman, A Gibaja, M Mamani, and F Farfan. 2011. The sensitivity of tropical leaf litter decomposition to temperature: results from a large-scale leaf translocation experiment along an elevation gradient in Peruvian forests. New Phytologist 189:967-977.

DH Urrego, MB Bush, MR Silman, BA Niccum, P La Rosa, CH McMichael, S Hagen, and M Palace. 2012. Holocene fires, forest stability and human occupation in south-western Amazonia. Journal of Biogeography.

DH Urrego, BA Niccum, CF La Drew, MR Silman, and MB Bush. 2011. Fire and drought as drivers of early Holocene tree line changes in the Peruvian Andes. Journal of Quaternary Science 26:28-36.

DH Urrego, MR Silman, A Correa⠐Metrio, and MB Bush. 2011. Pollen–vegetation relationships along steep cclimatic gradients in western Amazonia. Journal of Vegetation Science 22:795-806.

KJ Feeley, MR Silman, MB Bush, W Farfan R., K Garcia C., Y Malhi, P Meir, and S Saatchi. 2011. The upward migration of Andean trees in response to increasing temperatures. Journal of Biogeography. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2010.02444.x

KJ Feeley and MR Silman. 2011. Keep collecting: Accurate species distribution modelling reqires more collections than previously thought. Diversity and Distributions. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-4642.2011.00813.x

Y Malhi, MR Silman, N Salinas, M Bush, P Meir, and S Saatchi. 2010. Elevation gradients in the tropics: Laboratories for ecosystem ecology and global change research. Global Change Biology. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02323.x.

CAL Girardin, D Gurdak, L Aragão, A Rozas-Dávila, W Huasco, W Farfan Rios, C Girardin, MR Silman, D Metcalfe, J Silva-Espejo, N Salinas Revilla, and Y Malhi. 2010. Net primary productivity allocation and cycling of carbon along a tropical forest elevational transect in the Peruvian Andes. Global Change Biology doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02235.x

KJ Feeley and MR Silman. 2010. The data void in modeling current and future distributions of tropical species. Global Change Biology doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02239.x

RA Hillyerand MR Silman. 2010. Changes in species interactions across a 3 km elevation gradient: effects on plant migration in response to climate change. Global Change Biologydoi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02268.x

D Urrego, MB Bush, and MR Silman. 2010. A long history of cloud and forest migration from Lake Consuelo, Peru. Quaternary Research 73:364-373

KJ Feeley and MR Silman. 2010. Biotic attrition in the hot tropics accounting for truncated temperature niches. Global Change Biology 16(6):1830–1836.

KJ Feeley and MR Silman. 2010. Land-use and climate change effects on population size and extinction risk of Andean plants. Global Change Biology doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02197.x

C Meier, J Rapp, R Bowers, MR Silman, and N Fierer. 2010. Fungal growth on a common wood substrate across a tropical elevation gradient: temperature sensitivity, community composition, and potential for above-ground decomposition. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 42(7): 1083-1090.

KJ Feeley and MR Silman. 2010. Modelled distributions and responses of Andean & Amazonian plant species to climate change: the effects of geo-referencing errors and the importance of data filtering. Journal of Biogeography 37(4):733-740. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02197.x

JL Wyatt and MR Silman. 2010. Centuries-old logging legacy on spatial and temporal patterns in understory herb communities. Forest Ecology and Management 260:116-124. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2010.04.010 Appendix A

B Valencia, D Urrego, MR Silman, and M Bush. 2010. From ice-age to modern: a record of landscape change in an Andean cloud forest. Journal of Biogeography. 37:1637-1647KJ Feeley and MR Silman. 2009. Extinction rates of Amazonian plant species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 106:12382-12387.

D Urrego, MB Bush, MR Silman, A Correa-Metrio, M Ledru, F Mayle, B and Valencia. 2009. Millennial-scale ecological changes in tropical South America since the Last Glacial Maximum. Pp. 283-300 in Past climate variability in South America and Surrounding Regions: From the Last Glacial Maximum to the Holocene, F. Vimieux, F. Sylvestre, and M. Khodri, eds. Springer. NY.

M Zimmermann, P Meir, MR Silman, and 15 others. 2009. No differences in soil carbon stocks across the tree line in the Peruvian Andes. Ecosystems DOI: 10.1007/s10021-009-9300-2, Print 13:62-74

A Gibbon, MR Silman, Y Malhi, JB Fisher, P Meir, M Zimmermann, GC Dargie, W Farfan R, and K Garcia C.  2009. Ecosystem carbon storage across the grassland-forest transition in the high Andes of Manu National Park, Peru. Ecosystems. DOI: 10.1007/s10021-010-9376-8