Professor Stephen Williams
Senior Principal Research Fellow
Professor, Director of Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change (2006-present)
Principle Research Fellow (2005-2006)
Senior Research Fellow- Rainforest CRC (2002-2004)
ARC Research Fellow (1999-2002),
Post Doctoral Research Fellow – Rainforest CRC (1997-1999)
PhD awarded 1998.
+61 7 4781 5580
+61 7 4725 1570
Note: Please direct all student enquiries through the school Secretary.
Climate Change impacts on Tropical Biodiversity
Determinants of Biodiversity Patterns
Rainforest biogeography and evolution
Recent and Current Research Projects Include
I am currently the director of the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity & Climate Change Research (CTBCC), a multidisciplinary research centre aimed at understanding the patterns and processes underlying tropical biodiversity and the impacts that global climate change will have on the natural environment. The centre is an initiative supported by the James Cook University Research Advancement Program, Queensland Government Innovation Funds, Marine & Tropical Science Research Facility, Earthwatch Institute, National Geographic and the National Science Foundation (USA). My aim is to produce models explaining patterns of biodiversity and predicting climate change impacts that integrate ecology, biogeography, spatial modeling, population genetics and ecophysiology. Another primary aim of this research centre is to provide an environment for the training, supervision and nuture of young scientists to boost Queenslands skills and research capacity.
My research is primarily focused on increasing our understanding of the processes that determine spatial patterns of biodiversity, particularly within tropical rainforests. An important aspect of understanding the evolution and biodiversity of the Wet Tropics biota is the effects that historical climate changes have had in the past and this research forms another major component of the research within the CTBCC. Currently, my research centers on the impacts of climate change on tropical biodiversity and I am particularly interested in determining the relative vulnerability of the rainforest species and ecosystems and their potential for adapting to climate change.
All of my research has a strong focus on conservation biology aimed at providing the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions about the management of the natural resources of the region.
This research while originally concentrating on vertebrate species has now expanded to include invertebrates, plants and ecosystem processes such as net primary productivity, nutrient cycling and decomposition rates.
The current focus areas for this research is the Wet Tropics Bioregion, however, the geographic scope of the centre is now expanding to Cape York Peninsula, Eungella (inland from Mackay) and possibly Thailand.
Recent and Currently Supervised Projects
Current Post-Doctoral Fellows
Dr Luke Shoo: Potential rainforest refugia for tropical fauna with climate change.
Dr Joanne Isaac: Extinction proneness of rainforest vertebrates in the face of climate change.
Dr Jason McKenzie: Historical biogeography of the Wet Tropics region and the influence on genetic lineages and evolution of rainforest herpetofauna.
Dr Gary Langham: Physiology and adaptive potential of rainforest skinks.
Recent and Currently Supervised PhD Topics
Predicting and detecting impacts of Climate change on Rainforest Fauna (L. Shoo)
Climatic seasonality and rainforest biodiversity (J. Middleton)
Selection on the bird immune genes (I. Zamora-Vilchis)
Productivity, biodiversity and climate change in the Wet Tropics Heritage Area (V. Valdez-Ramirez)
Soil processes, nutrient cycling and global climate change in north Queensland rainforest (S. Parsons)
Biogeography of Wet Tropics schizophoran flies: predicting the impacts of climate change on a diverse invertebrate group (R. Wilson)
Biodiversity and climate change: interactions between climate change, net primary productivity and bird abundance (A. Anderson)
Patterns in reproductive seasonality and abundance of native tropical Australian dung beetles in relation to altitude (M. Aristophanous)
Ecology of Carabid beetles: distributions, ecophysiology, endemism and
climate change (K. Staunton)
Ecophysiology of microhylid frogs: microhabitat buffering of climatic
change. (A. Merino-Viteri)
Future PhD Directions
Patterns of rainforest invertebrate species (many to chose from) altitudinal distribution and the effects of climate change.
Altitudinal and latitudinal variation in insect biomass in rainforest with variation in seasonality.
Physiological tolerances and adaptive potential of rainforest species.
Wilson R., Williams S.E., Yeates D. Potential climate change impacts on schizophoran flies in the rainforests of the Australian Wet Tropics. Biodiversity & Conservation
Marsh H., Dennis A., Hines H., Kutt A., McDonald K., Weber E., Williams S.E. & Winter J. 2007 Optimising the allocation of management resources to species of wildlife. Conservation Biology 21: 387-399.
Guisan, A. et al. (including Williams).2007. Sensitivity of predictive species distribution models to change in grain size: insights from a multi-models experiment across five continents.Diversity and Distributions. 13: 332-340
Williams, S.E., Isaac, J.L., Shoo, L.P. The impact of climate change on the biodiversity and ecosystem functions of the Wet Tropics. In Living in a dynamic tropical forest landscape, N. Stork & S. Turton (eds.), Blackwell Publishing.
Williams, S.E., Isaac, J.L., Graham, C., Moritz, C.M. Towards an understanding of vertebrate biodiversity in the Australian Wet Tropics. In Living in a dynamic tropical forest landscape, N. Stork & S. Turton (eds.), Blackwell Publishing.
Isaac, J. & Williams, S.E. Climate change and extinctions. Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Biodiversity,S. Levin (ed.)
Williams S.E. & Hilbert D. 2006. Climate change threats to the biodiversity of tropical rainforests in Australia. Pp. 33-52 In Emerging Threats to Tropical Forests. W.F. Laurance & C. Peres (eds.). Chicago University Press.
Williams S.E. 2006. Vertebrates of the Wet Tropics rainforests of Australia: species distributions and biodiversity. (282 pages)Cooperative Research Centre for Tropical Rainforest Ecology and Management, Cairns, Australia ISBN 0 86443 762 5. http://www.rainforest-crc.jcu.edu.au/publications/vertebrate_distributions.htm
Williams, S.E., G. Langham and L. Shoo. 2006. Macroecology in the mountains of the Australian wet tropics: the impacts of global climate change on rainforest biodiversity, p203 In Global change in mountain regions, M.F. Price (ed.), Sapiens Publishing, UK, ISBN 0-9552282-2-0
Williams Y.M, Williams S.E., Waycott M., Alford R. & Johnson C.J. 2006. Niche breadth and geographic range: ecological compensation for geographic rarity in rainforest frogs.Biology Letters 2: 532-535
Shoo, L., Williams S.E. & J-M Hero. 2006. Predicting and detecting impacts of climate change on montane rainforest birds in the Australian wet tropics, p.205. In Global change in mountain regions, M.F. Price (ed.), Sapiens Publishing, UK, ISBN 0-9552282-2-0
Elith J., Graham, C., Anderson R.P, Dudi´k M, Ferrier S., Antoine Guisan A., Hijmans R.J., Huettmann F., Leathwick J., Lehmann A., Li J., Lohmann L.G., Loiselle B.A., Manion G., Moritz C., Nakamura M., Nakazawa Y., Overton J.M., Peterson A.T., Phillips S.J., Richardson K., Scachetti-Pereira R., Schapire R., Soberon J., Williams S.E., Wisz M.S. &Zimmermann N.E.. 2006. Novel methods improve prediction of species’ distributions from occurrence data. Ecography 29(2): 129-151
Shoo L.P., Williams S.E. & Hero J-M. 2006. Detecting climate change induced range shifts: where and how should we be looking? Austral Ecology 31:22-29
Graham C., Moritz, C & Williams S.E. 2006. Habitat history improves prediction of biodiversity in a rainforest fauna. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 103:632-636
Hero J-M, Williams S.E. & Magnusson W. 2005. Ecological traits of declining amphibians in upland areas of eastern Australia. Journal of Zoology, London 267: 221-232
Shoo L.P., Williams S.E. & Hero J-M. 2005. Potential decoupling of trends in distribution area and population size of species’ with climate change. Global Change Biology 11: 1469-1476
Shoo L.P., Williams S.E & Hero J-M. 2005. Climate warming and the rainforest birds of the Australian Wet Tropics: using abundance data as a sensitive predictor of the change in total population size. Biological Conservation 125: 335-343
Schneider C. & Williams S.E. 2005. Effects of quaternary Climate Change and Rainforest Diversity: Insights from Spatial Analyses of Species and Genes in Australia’s Wet Tropics in Tropical Rainforests: Past, Present & Future. Moritz C., Bermingham E. & Dick C. (Eds.), Chicago University Press, Chicago, USA.
Winter, J.W., Dillewaard, H.A., Williams, S.E.and Bolitho, E.E.,2004. Possums and gliders of North Queensland: distribution and conservation status.Pp 26-50, in The Biology of Australian Possums and Gliding Possums ed. by R.L. Goldingay and S.M. Jackson.Surrey Beatty & Sons, Chipping Norton.
C.D. Thomas, S.E. Williams, A. Cameron, R.E. Green, M. Bakkenes, L.J. Beaumont, Y.C. Collingham, B.F. N. Erasmus, M. Ferriera de Siqueira, A. Grainger, L. Hannah, L. Hughes, B. Huntley, A.S. van Jaarsveld, G.F. Midgley, L. Miles, M.A. Ortega-Huerta, A.T. Peterson, O.L. Phillips. 2004. Extinction risk from climate change is high. Nature 2004 430: doi:10.1038/nature02719
Cameron, A., C.D. Thomas, R.E. Green, M. Bakkenes, L.J. Beaumont, Y.C. Collingham, B.F. N. Erasmus, M. Ferriera de Siqueira, A. Grainger,L. Hannah, L. Hughes, B. Huntley, A.S. van Jaarsveld, G.F. Midgley, L. Miles, M.A. Ortega-Huerta, A.T. Peterson, O.L. Phillips, S.E. Williams. 2004. Will climate change catch us off guard? Conservation in Practice 5 (2): 28-29
Krockenberger A.K., Kitching, R., Turton, S.M.(eds) plus 12 other authors (including Williams). 2004. Environmental Crisis: Climate Change and Terrestrial Biodiversity in Queensland. Cooperative Research Centre for Tropical Rainforest Ecology and Management. Rainforest CRC, Cairns, QLD, Australia.
C.D. Thomas, A. Cameron, R.E. Green, M. Bakkenes, L.J. Beaumont, Y.C. Collingham, B.F. N. Erasmus, M. Ferriera de Siqueira, L. Hannah, L. Hughes, B. Huntley, A.S. van Jaarsveld, G.F. Midgley, L. Miles, M.A. Ortega-Huerta, A.T. Peterson, S.E. Williams. 2004. Extinction risk from climate change. Nature 427: 145-148.
Williams S.E., Bolitho, E. E. & Fox, S. 2003. Climate change in Australian tropical rainforests: an impending environmental catastrophe. Proceedings of the Royal Society Lond. B. 270:1887-1892.
Williams S.E. 2003. Biodiversity and climate change in the tropical montane rainforests of northern Australia. Pp. 20-21 In: Global climate change and biodiversity. R.E. Green, M. Harley. L. Miles, J. Scharlemann, A. Watkinson & O. Watts (eds.)
Williams S.E. 2003. Impacts of global climate change on the rainforest vertebrates of the Australian Wet Tropics.pp. 50-52. In: Climate change impacts on Biodiversity in Australia. Howden, M., Hughes, L., Dunlop, M., Zethoven, I., Hilbert, D. & Chilcott, C. (eds.). Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
Hilbert D. & Williams S.E. 2003. Global warming in the Wet Tropics. Issues in Tropical Forest Landscapes. Cooperative Research Centre for Tropical Rainforest Ecology, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia.
Williams S.E., Marsh H. & Winter, J. 2002. Spatial scale, species diversity and habitat structure: small mammals in Australian tropical rainforest. Ecology 83 (5): 1317-1329
Williams S.E. & Hero J-M. 2001. Multiple determinants of Australian tropical frog biodiversity Biological Conservation 98: 1-10
Williams S.E. 2001. Invited book review: “Australian rainforests: islands of green in a sea of fire”, D.M.J.S. Bowman. Quarterly Review of Biology 76: 376
C. Moritz, K.S. Richardson, S. Ferrier, G.B. Monteith, J. Stanisic, S.E. Williams & T. Whiffin. 2001 Biogeographical concordance and efficiency of taxon indicators for establishing conservation priority in a tropical rainforest biota. Proceedings of the Royal Society Lond. B.268: 1875-1881