TSS People

Rosie Fisher, Project Scientist

Short Bio

I am a project scientist in the Terrestrial Sciences Section working on development of the Community Land Model. My research is primarily motivated by the potential for the biosphere to generate large feedbacks to climate change, via changes in CO2 balance, evaporation and trace gas emissions. Within this, I am involved in the development and testing of new methods for simulating the future of global ecosystems and their responses to change. The development of 'predictive ecology' is in its infancy, and our understanding of ecosystem processes is far from ideal. Dynamic Global Vegetation Models, that attempt to predict the distribution and structure of ecosystems in the future, are thus a necessary but imperfect means by which we attempt to forecast the impacts of global environmental change on natural ecosystems.

My interests currently span a wide spectrum of issues related to the development of simulation models of ecosystem function. Normally, this involves increasing the complexity of a model so that it provides a higher resolution simulation of the real world. Ideally, we hope to find instances where the self-organizing properties of ecosystems allow us to simplify our model structure. Harnessing the emergent behaviour of plants and ecosystems arguably provides the most promising avenue for the development of predictive models of the biosphere. My research currently focuses on the following specific areas:

  • The representation of ecological scale interactions (competition, recruitment, migration) in global scale predictive models
  • The ecophysiology of Amazon Rainforest, with a particular focus on the impact of drought on canopy gas exchange and demographics
  • Mechanisms, simulation and parameterisation of plant mortality processes
  • Interactions between the Nitrogen and Carbon cycles and the role of N limitation in determining the ability of additional carbon dioxide to fertilise plant growth
  • Simulating the co-dependence between fire and vegetation structure
  • Optimality models of 'ideal' plant resource allocation for coupled carbon, nitrogen and water acquisition.

Prior to coming to NCAR, I was a post-doc researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and the University of Sheffield in the UK. My graduate studies were at the University of Edinburgh, where I was involved with a 1ha rainfall manipulation experiment in Eastern Brazil, investigating the impact of drought on the Amazon rainforest. Our experiment is ongoing, and is yielding more interesting results each year. Science media coverage of the research we are conducting with the Community Land Model can be found here, and a discussion of our work on Amazon drought impacts can be found here


  • Ph.D., The Response of Amazon Rainforest to Drought: Edinburgh University. (2005)
  • M.Res., Research in the Natural Environment, Edinburgh University. (2001)
  • B.A., Biological Sciences, Oxford University. (2000)


In review

Nate McDowell, Rosie Fisher, Chonggang Xu, J.C. Domec, Teemu Hˆltt‰, D. Scott Mackay, John S. Sperry et al. Uncertainties and opportunities in modeling drought-induced vegetation mortality.

Rong Fu, Lei Yin, Wenhong Li, Paola A. Arias, Lei Huang, Katia Fernandes, Robert E. Dickinson, Brant Liebmann, Rosie Fisher , Ranga B. Myneni. Increased dry season length over southern Amazonia in recent decades.


David Galbraith, Yadvinder Malhi, Kofi Affum-Baffoe, Andrea D. A. Castanho, Christopher E. Doughty, Rosie Fisher , Simon L. Lewis, Kelvin S.-H. Peh, Oliver L. Phillip, Carlos A. Quesada, Bonaventure SonkÈ & Jon Lloyd. (2013) Residence times of woody biomass in tropical forests. Plant Ecology and Diversity. DOI:10.1080/17550874.2013.770578

Chris Huntingford, Przemyslaw Zelazowski, David Galbraith, Lina M. Mercado, Stephen Sitch, Rosie Fisher, Mark Lomas, Anthony P. Walker et al. (2013). Simulated resilience of tropical rainforests to CO2-induced climate change Nature Geosciences doi:10.1038/ngeo1741

Luo Y. Q., Randerson J., Abramowitz G., Bacour C., Blyth E., Carvalhais N., Ciais P., Dalmonech D., Fisher J., Fisher R., Friedlingstein P et al. (2013) A framework of benchmarking land models. Biogeosciences Discussions 9(2) 1899-1944

Gordon Bonan, Keith Oleson, Rosie Fisher, Gitta Lasslop & Markus Reichstein (2012). Reconciling leaf physiological traits and canopy flux data: Use of the TRY and FLUXNET databases in the Community Land Model version 4 Journal of Geophysical Research, Biogeosciences 117, G02026, 19 PP., 2012

Chonggang Xu, Rosie Fisher, Cathy Wilson, Stan Wullschleger, Michael Cai, Nate McDowell. Toward a mechanistic modeling of nitrogen limitation on vegetation dynamics PlosOne

Marthews, Toby, Malhi, Yadvinder, Girardin, CÈcile, Silva Espejo, Javier, Arag„o, Luiz, Metcalfe, Daniel, Rapp, Joshua, Mercado, Lina, Fisher, Rosie, Galbraith, David, Fisher, Joshua, Salinas-Revilla, Norma, Friend, Andrew, Restrepo-Coupe, Natalia.(2012) Simulating forest productivity along a neotropical elevational transect: temperature variation and carbon use efficiency. Global Change Biology. 18, 2882-2898

Fisher R.A. Modelling Plant Ecology. Contribution to `Environmental Modellng: Finding Simplicity in Complexity.' eds. Wainwright J. & Mulligan M. Wiley-Blackwell. 2013 ISBN: 978-0-470-74911-1

McDowell N.G., Beerling D.J., Breshears D.D., Fisher R.A., Raffa K.F., Stitt M. (2011) The interdependent mechanisms underlying climate-driven vegetation mortality. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 26(10) 523-532

Metcalfe D.B, Fisher R.A and Wardle D. (2011) Plant communities as drivers of soil respiration: pathways, mechanisms, and significance for global change. Biogeosciences Discussions. 8 1-37.

D.B. Metcalfe, P. Meir, L.E.O. C Arago, R. Lobo-do-Vale, D. Galbraith, R A. Fisher , M. M. Chaves, J.P. Maroco, A.C.L. da Costa, S.S. de Almeida, A. P. Braga, P.H.L. Gonalves, J. de Athaydes, M. da Costa, T. T. B. Portela, A.A.R. de Oliveira, Y. Malhi, M. Williams (2010) Shifts in plant respiration and carbon use efficiency at a large-scale drought experiment in the eastern Amazon New Phytologist. 187(3) 608-621

da Costa A.C.L., Galbraith D., Almeida S., Portela B.T.T, da Costa M., Atahydes J., Fisher R.A., Phillips O. & Meir P. (2010) Effects of 7 years of experimental drought on the aboveground biomass storage of an eastern Amazonian rainforest. New Phytologist 187(3) 579-591

Fisher R.A, McDowell N., Purves D.W., Moorcroft P.R., Sitch S., Meir P., Cox P., Huntingford C. & Woodward F.I. (2010) Ecological scale limitations in second generation dynamic vegetation models. New Phytologist. 187(3) 666-681

Meir P.W., Fisher R.A, Costa A.C.L. et al. (2010) A one to two year drought causes net CO2 emissions from Amazon rain forest. New Phytologist. 30(3) 608-621

C. Huntingford, B.B.B. Booth, S. Sitch, N. Gedney, J.A. Lowe, R.A. Fisher, S.K. Liddicoat, L. M. Mercado, M.J. Best and G.P. Weedon. (2010) IMOGEN: an intermediate complexity model to evaluate terrestrial impacts of a changing climate Geosciences Model Development 3 679-687

J.B. Fisher, S. Sitch, Y. Malhi, R.A. Fisher, C. Huntingford & S.-Y. Tan. (2010) The carbon cost of plant nitrogen acquisition: A mechanistic, globally-applicable model of plant nitrogen uptake, retranslocation and fixation. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. doi:10.1029/20009GBC003530.

Alton P., Fisher R.A. Williams M. & Los S. (2009) Simulations of global evapotranspiration using semi-empirical and mechanistic schemes of plant hydrology. Journal of Geophysical Research. doi:10.1029/2009GB003540

Nicholas J. Ostle, Pete Smith, Rosie Fisher, F. Ian Woodward, Joshua B. Fisher, Jo U. Smith, David Galbraith, Peter Levy, Patrick Meir, Niall P. McNamara & Richard D. Bardgett (2009) Integrating plant-soil interactions into global carbon cycle models. Journal of Ecology 97, 851-863

Malhi Y., Aragao L., Fisher R.A., Galbraith D., Huntingford C., McSweeney C., New M., Sitch S., Zelazowski P. (2009) A tipping point in the Amazon? Exploring the likelihood and mechanism of a climate-change induced dieback of the Amazon rainforest. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Special issue on `Tipping points in the Earth System'). doi: 10.1073/pnas.0804619106.

Fisher R.A., Williams M., Ruivo M.L., Sombroek W.G & Lola da Costa, A. (2008) Evaluating climatic and edaphic controls of drought stress at two Amazonian rain forest sites. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 148 (6-7), 850-861

Atkin O.K., Atkinson L.J., Fisher R.A., Campbell C.D., Zaragoza-Castell J., Pitchford J.W., Woodward F.I., Hurry V. (2008) Globally heterogeneous impacts of thermal acclimation by plant respiration. Global Change Biology. 14 (11), 2709 - 2726

Chris Huntingford, Rosie A. Fisher, Lina Mercado, Ben B. B. Booth, Steve Sitch, Phil P. Harris, Peter M. Cox, Chris D. Jones, Richard A. Betts, Yadvinder Malhi, Glen Harris, Mat Collins & Paul Moorcroft (2008) Towards Quantifying Uncertainty in Predictions of Amazon `Die-back'. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (B) 363(1498) 1857-64.

Meir P., Metcalfe D.B., Costa A.C.L., Fisher R.A. (2008) The fate of assimilated carbon during drought: impacts on respiration in Amazon rain forests. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (B). 363 (1498), 1849-1855

Fisher R.A., Williams M., Lola da Costa A., Malhi Y., da Costa R.F., Almeida S. & Meir P. (2007) The response of an Eastern Amazonian rain forest to drought stress: Results and modeling analyses from a through-fall exclusion experiment. Global Change Biology 13, 2361-2378

Fisher R.A., Williams M. Lobo do Vale R., Lola da Costa, A. & Meir P. (2006) Evidence from Amazonian forests is consistent with isohydric control of leaf water potential. Plant, Cell and Environment. 29 151-165.

Other Publications

Rosie Fisher Recent and Future Advances in Dynamic Global Vegetation Modelling. (2010) iLeaps Newsletter 'Terrestrial Feedbacks and Earth System Models'.

David Lawrence and Rosie Fisher. Bridging the gap between iLEAPs and GEWEX communities: The CLM perspective (2013) iLeaps Newsletter 'Terrestrial Feedbacks and Earth System Models'.

Jeffrey Chambers, Rosie Fisher Jefferson Hall, Richard Norby, Steve Wofsy (2012). Research Priorities for Tropical Ecosystems Under Climate Change. DoE workshop report.

CGD People

Rosie Fisher, Project Scientist