School of
Integrative Biology
James Dalling

286 Morrill Hall
Office: 217-244-8914

Mail: 286 Morrill Hall, 505 S. Goodwin Ave, Urbana, IL 61801
Lab Page
Curriculum Vita

James Dalling
Professor - Plant Biology
Director, Integrative Biology Honors


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

Teaching Interests

IB372, Honors Ecology and Evolution
IB453, Community Ecology

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 (i) seed-infecting fungi as a model system for understanding how plant-pathogen interactions and plant defense traits influence abundance and coexistence; (ii) role of soil nutrient availability in structuring tree communities and plant functional traits; (iii) 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.


Delcomyn Professorial Scholar
Visiting Fellow, Magdalen College, Oxford

Representative Publications

Dalling, J.W., Davis, A.S., Arnold, A.E., Sarmiento, C., Zalamea, P-C. (2020) Extending plant defense theory to seeds. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, in press.

Ferrer, A., Heath, K.D., Canam, T., Dalling, J.W. (2020) Differences in the rate and process of wood decay are associated with distinct fungal communities in terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats in the tropical eastern Pacific. Ecology, in press.

Thompson J.B., Slot, M., Dalling, J.W., Winter, K., Turner, B.L., Zalamea, P.C. (2019). Species‐specific effects of phosphorus addition on tropical tree seedling response to elevated CO2. Functional Ecology, 33:1871-1881

Jones, J.M., Heath, K.D., Ferrer, A.H., Brown, S.P., Canam, T., Dalling, J.W. (2018) Wood decomposition in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in the tropics: contrasting biotic and abiotic processes. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 95:fiy223.

Zalamea, P.C., Dalling, J.W., Sarmiento, C., Arnold, A.E., Delevich, C., Berhow, M.A., Ndobegang, A., Gripenberg, S. and Davis, A.S., 2018. Dormancy‐defense syndromes and tradeoffs between physical and chemical defenses in seeds of pioneer species. Ecology, 99:1988-1998

Sarmiento, C., Zalamea, P-C., Dalling, J.W., Davis A., Stump, S., Uren, J., Arnold, A.E. (2017). Soilborne fungi have host affinity and host-specific effects on seed germination and survival in a lowland tropical forest. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114:11458-11463

Prada, C.M., Morris, A., Andersen, K.M., Turner, B.L., Caballero, P., Dalling, J.W. (2017) Soils and rainfall drive landscape-scale changes in the diversity and functional composition of tree communities in premontane tropical forest. Journal of Vegetation Science, 28:859-870.

Corrales, A., Mangan, S.A., Turner, B.L., Dalling, J.W. (2016) An ectomycorrhizal nitrogen economy facilitates monodominance in a neotropical forest. Ecology Letters doi: 10.1111/ele.12570

Zalamea, P-C, Turner, B.L., Winter, K., Jones, F.A., Sarmiento, C., Dalling, J.W. (2016) Seedling growth responses to phosphorus reflect adult distribution patterns of tropical trees. New Phytologist doi: 10.1111/nph.14045

Heineman, K., Turner, B.L., Dalling, J.W. (2016) Variation in wood nutrients along a tropical soil fertility gradient. New Phytologist doi: 10.1111/nph.13904

Complete Publications List