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James W Dalling

Profile picture for James W Dalling

Contact Information

286 Morrill Hall
505 S. Goodwin Ave
Urbana, IL 61801

Director, Integrative Biology Honors Program and Professor, Plant Biology

Research Description

Tropical forest dynamics, plant-soil and plant-fungal interactions, seed ecology

My research concerns the population and community ecology of tropical forests, with a particular interest in understanding how soil nutrient availability and soil microbial communities shape the composition and diversity of tree communities. Much of my work is carried out with collaborators at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, in Panama, where I am a Research Associate Scientist. My work is carried out principally on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal Watershed, or at the Fortuna Forest Reserve and Volcan Barú in western Panama where I established and maintain a network of forest dynamics plots that encompass a wide range of soil nutrient availabilities and elevation (700-3200m).

Current projects explore:

  1. seed-infecting fungi as a model system for understanding how plant-pathogen interactions and plant defense traits influence abundance and coexistence
  2. role of soil nutrient availability in structuring tree communities and plant functional traits
  3. role of wood nutrients as a plant nutrient store in nutrient-poor soil and as a determinant of wood decomposer community composition and decay rate


B.A., 1988, Oxford University
Ph.D., 1992, Cambridge University

Awards and Honors

Delcomyn Professorial Scholar
Visiting Fellow, Magdalen College, Oxford
Beaufort Visiting Fellow, St John's College, Cambridge

Additional Campus Affiliations

Professor, Plant Biology
Professor, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Recent Publications

Dalling, J. W., Garcia, E., Espinosa, C., Pizano, C., Ferrer, A., & Lira Viana, J. (2024). Zombie leaves: Novel repurposing of senescent fronds in the tree fern Cyathea rojasiana in a tropical montane forest: Novel repurposing of senescent fronds in the tree fern Cyathea rojasiana in a tropical montane forest. Ecology, 105(3), Article e4248. Advance online publication.

Edwards, J. D., Krichels, A. H., Seyfried, G. S., Dalling, J., Kent, A. D., & Yang, W. H. (2024). Soil microbial community response to ectomycorrhizal dominance in diverse neotropical montane forests. Mycorrhiza, 34(1-2), 95-105.

Law, S., Flores-Moreno, H., Cheesman, A. W., Clement, R., Rosenfield, M., Yatsko, A., Cernusak, L. A., Dalling, J. W., Canam, T., Iqsaysa, I. A., Duan, E. S., Allison, S. D., Eggleton, P., & Zanne, A. E. (2023). Wood traits explain microbial but not termite-driven decay in Australian tropical rainforest and savanna. Journal of Ecology, 111(5), 982-993. Advance online publication.

Seyfried, G. S., Corrales, A., Kent, A. D., Dalling, J. W., & Yang, W. (2023). Watershed-scale Variation in Potential Fungal Community Contributions to Ectomycorrhizal Biogeochemical Syndromes. Ecosystems, 26(4), 724-739.

Waite, C. E., van der Heijden, G. M. F., Field, R., Burslem, D. F. R. P., Dalling, J. W., Nilus, R., Rodríguez-Ronderos, M. E., Marshall, A. R., & Boyd, D. S. (2023). Landscape-scale drivers of liana load across a Southeast Asian forest canopy differ to the Neotropics. Journal of Ecology, 111(1), 77-89.

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