Jeanine Rhemtulla

Associate Professor

Research Classification

Research Interests

Ecology and Quality of the Environment
Ecological Trends
Landscape and Restoration
Environment Management and Protection
Biodiversity and Biocomplexity
Conservation & Poverty Alleviation
Ecosystem services
Landscape ecology & spatial analysis
socio-ecological systems
Temperate & tropical forest & agroforestry systems

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters


Research Methodology

GIS & spatial analysis
Historical ecology (mapping landscape change using census data, satellite imagery, archival materials, oral history)


Master's students
Doctoral students
Postdoctoral Fellows

Forest restoration in tropical systems

I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.
I support experiential learning experiences, such as internships and work placements, for my graduate students and Postdocs.

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Historical dynamics of ecosystem services and their social-ecological drivers in British Columbia, Canada (2023)

Ecosystem services (ES), such as timber, clean water, and nature-based recreation, are co-produced through social and ecological systems that interact at a range of scales. The patterns and drivers of ES are therefore complex, and research is needed to clarify ES dynamics and articulate how land management institutions can adaptively steward ES through an uncertain future. The aim of this dissertation was to analyze how ES have changed over the past century in British Columbia (BC), Canada, and to identify the social-ecological and institutional drivers of these changes. In Chapter 2, I observed through qualitative analysis that persistent institutional structures (e.g., colonial power structures) and functions (e.g., policies) have constrained institutional response to address ecological challenges. Meanwhile, ecological monitoring has acted as a feedback, at times, to foster institutional change and guide more effective landscape management responses. In Chapter 3, I described the data reconstructions I used to monitor the flows and demand of 12 ES across six regions of BC over the past century. In Chapter 4, I used breakpoint analysis to detect abrupt changes in these 12 ES, characterize their overall patterns, and trace possible social-ecological causes. I found that abrupt changes and non-linear trajectories were the norm (77% of ES time series), a finding that challenges prevailing paradigms that view ES as static or monotonically declining. In Chapter 5, I used Granger causality analysis to assess how well annual ES demand (i.e., the amount desired by people) predicts changes in annual ES flows (i.e., the amount of ES produced) and vice-versa. ES demand historically helped predict changes in ES flows, but this relationship has decreased over time or switched direction such that ES flows increasingly drive ES demand, which may reflect rising scarcity in ES supply. Overall, this research has elucidated complex long-term temporal dynamics in ES, tested novel methods for monitoring the social-ecological drivers of ES, and provided strategic recommendations for institutions to maintain ES through time. By leveraging a historical systems approach, I have contributed toward an integrated theory of social-ecological ES dynamics and how land management institutions can navigate complexity to maintain ES.

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Multifunctionality of community gardens and food forests in Vancouver, Canada (2023)

Urban food production systems such as community gardens and food forests are being promoted for their ability to provide multiple benefits, including food security, social cohesion, connection to nature, and climate change adaptation. Yet it is unclear whether and how people experience multiple benefits, or what factors are associated with higher levels of multifunctionality and different ecosystem services. In addition, while food forests are burgeoning in cities, there is still inconsistency in what constitutes urban food forestry in the scientific literature. To address these gaps, I first conducted a scooping review to examine ways in which the biological and functional characteristics of urban food production systems that involve trees in Northern America and Europe are described in the peer-reviewed literature. Secondly, I investigated the trade-offs and synergies between perceived provisioning and cultural ecosystem services that are valued by community gardeners in Vancouver, Canada. Finally, I identified bundles of provisioning, cultural, and regulating ES that are associated with similar biophysical and social characteristics of community gardens in Vancouver. To do so, I conducted a cross-sectional survey of 366 gardeners from 50 sites, 26 structured interviews with garden representatives, land use mapping, and tree inventory of 1,445 woody plants. The results of my research revealed that the current definition of “urban food forestry” includes a range of treed food systems with or without herbaceous plants that can provide multiple services. In Vancouver, community gardeners experience synergies between cultural services, and even between food and cultural services, with few perceived trade-offs. Lastly, while forest-like, large food forests with both individual plots and communal space for growing food seem to be the most multifunctional, small gardens may play an important role in promoting a sense of belonging and food sharing. My findings suggest that multifunctionality could be achieved in urban food production systems but requires strategic design (e.g., providing sufficient space for trees), management (e.g., a mix of individual and collective), and support of gardens (e.g., volunteers, technical assistance, resources). Moreover, different types of community gardens should be considered in order to best fit local contexts and meet different needs of communities.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Monitoring spectral forest regrowth trends in the Chapare watershed of Bolivia, 1985 to 2018 (2024)

Forest restoration is increasingly seen as a promising solution that can help address global climate change, biodiversity loss, and support sustainable development. One of the main approaches is Forest and Landscape Restoration (FLR), which increases tree and forest cover in landscapes, therefore enhancing carbon sequestration and storage. However, this approach is only effective if these restored forests have long lasting permanence on the landscape.In this study, I leveraged cloud computing and time series analysis (using the Landtrendr algorithm in Google Earth Engine) to evaluate the spatial and temporal trends in regrowth permanence in the Bolivian watershed of Chapare, between 1985 and 2018. I then conducted a multi-variate driver analysis to better understand what factors increase regrowth permanence within the watershed, as well as in its three distinct regions. On average, regrowth events persisted for 7.3 years, with the mean ranging from 7.2 to 9.4 years. Most long-lasting regrowth events tended to be clustered in the Andean region of the watershed, or around the village of Villa Tunari, one of the most populated settlements in the watershed. Proximity to roads and human settlements increased the persistence of regrowth events. Surrounding forest cover had a negative quadratic relationship with regrowth permanence within the watershed, suggesting a non-linear relationship whereby regrowth permanence was highest at medium forest cover. However, regional trends within the watershed were also apparent, shaped by local context and history. The Andes had the most persistent regrowth events, whereas the Amazon region had the shortest regrowth permanence in the watershed.The findings of this study highlight the importance that human factors play when determining the longevity of a regrowth event. Additionally, the differences seen between each region within the watershed highlight the need to approach this kind of study at multiple scales, as many insights could be lost otherwise.

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Assessing the evolution and implementation of forest landscape restoration : a review (2023)

The Bonn Challenge is an initiative to restore 350 million hectares of land globally by 2030guided by a restoration approach called Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR). FLR was jointlydefined by the WWF and IUCN as a “planned process that aims to regain ecological integrityand enhance human well-being in deforested or degraded forest landscapes”. Given thecomplexity of the social-ecological systems and the multi-year time frame of FLR projects,designing and managing restoration interventions is a challenge. Furthermore, FLR’s definitionincludes some terms with no agreed-upon definitions. As such, what FLR means in practicalterms, and how FLR projects are being implemented in the field, remains unclear. Lessonlearningis thus critical so managers of FLR projects can adapt in response to feedback, and tosuit changing needs, priorities, and conditions as they inevitably evolve through time. This isknown as adaptive management and is a central tenet of FLR. However, adaptive managementrelies on an understanding of what FLR means and what it looks like on the ground. Thus, twodecades after the introduction of FLR, in this thesis I seek to review the meaning, challenges, andprogress of the FLR approach to help guide future projects. I conduct a systematic review of theliterature to, first, undertake a comprehensive global assessment of how FLR is evolving inconcept, and second, assess the state of its documented implementation in the field. Usingqualitative content analysis, I show that although social themes dominated the FLR discourse inthe beginning, ecological themes have become dominant in the last 5 years, showingconvergence around a common concern over the quality of restored areas. Furthermore, I findlimited detailed reporting on FLR implementation in the field and offer recommendations forimproving monitoring and reporting. This research contributes to other efforts aimed atimproving shared understanding of the evolving meaning of FLR and knowledge of it implementation in the field. This research may help to inform adaptive management to guidecurrent and future projects through the UN Decade on Restoration (2021-2030) the last decade toachieve the Bonn Challenge target.

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A predictive modeling and ecocultural study of pine mushrooms (Tricholoma murrillianum) with the Lil'wat Nation in British Columbia, Canada (2021)

Although recognized by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Indigenous rights to traditionally held and managed forestlands and forest resources are only beginning to gain visibility in forest research and management in Canada. This presents challenges to First Nations whose cultural and economic priorities for forest use conflict with those of private and public entities, particularly when evidence is required to support traditional use claims. Knowledge of traditional use is customarily maintained as oral history and is rarely available in formats recognized by Canadian legal and governance institutions. Such is the case with the Líl̓wat First Nation, in British Columbia, Canada, and Tricholoma murrillianum (pine mushroom), an elusive, ectomycorrhizal mushroom species whose value to Líl̓wat people is put at risk by competing timber interests. Rich Líl̓wat Indigenous knowledge (IK) of pine mushrooms signals their importance and is encoded in temporally long and detailed records of their presence on the landscape. I elicit Líl̓wat IK to generate a map of pine mushroom habitat in their traditional territory and demonstrate the multifaceted value of pine mushrooms to Líl̓wat people. I utilize the species distribution modeling (SDM) software Maxent to compare two methods for incorporating Líl̓wat IK to produce pine mushroom occurrence data, yielding two models of suitable habitat. I demonstrate that Líl̓wat IK generates species distribution models with high area under the curve values (0.920, 0.923) and low omission error rates (0.054, 0.062). This study also demonstrates the novel application of IK to fungi SDM. Drawing from semi-structured interviews, document analysis and discourse analysis, I show that harvesting pine mushrooms is an expression of Líl̓wat cultural revitalization and consequently, colonial resistance. Documented traditional Líl̓wat practices show that pine mushrooms have long been managed in relation to other species, such as deer, and as part of broader sociocultural systems founded in reciprocity. Where Western scientists are increasingly interested in working with Indigenous communities and IK, I highlight respectful and reciprocal ways in which ecological and ethnoecological research can be undertaken.

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Biodiversity, agricultural productivity, and landscape context in organic vs conventional rice paddy wetlands in Kerala, India (2018)

Agriculture is the most extensive global land use and a leading cause of biodiversity loss. Organic farming is often promoted as a means of reducing agricultural impacts on biodiversity by reducing or avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and can result in a 30 percent increase in biodiversity for some species in some systems. A potential trade-off is that organic agriculture can lower crop yields, thereby requiring a greater land area to meet crop production goals. In this study, I examined whether forest cover surrounding rice wetlands can reduce the trade-off between biodiversity and productivity via comparison of paired organic and conventional farms. I compared abundance, Simpson diversity, and rarefied richness of amphibians, and abundance of arthropods in organic and conventional rice wetlands in four districts in Kerala, southern India, from July to October of 2016. I selected 31 organic rice fields and paired each with a nearby conventional field. Pairs were located to maximize the variation in forest cover in the landscape surrounding the fields. Farmers provided data on mean rice yields of each farm.Amphibians were significantly more abundant and diverse in organic fields, and species composition differed from those of conventional fields. Arthropods were more abundant in organic fields. While mean yield (tons of rice/hectare) of organic farms was significantly lower than in conventional farms, landscape context ameliorated the trade-off between productivity and biodiversity. In organic fields surrounded by more forest patches, rice yields did not decrease as much compared to the landscapes with less forest, while the increase in biodiversity (as compared to nearby conventional agriculture) was not as large. My results suggest that forested landscapes reduce the trade-off between biodiversity and productivity in rice fields in Kerala. These results could aid in designing agricultural ecosystems that maximize biodiversity benefits. For example, promoting more diversified tree-based agroecosystems, and protecting remaining uncultivated areas in the landscape could improve farmland biodiversity while minimizing the impacts to the agricultural productivity of the landscape. Furthermore, in intensively managed landscapes comprised of cropland and urban land cover, organic farming may have a larger effect on biodiversity than in landscapes with more forest cover.

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Forest dependence and forest degradation in southern Malawi (2018)

Rural small-holder farmers in the tropics rely on forests for multiple ecosystem services, such as provisioning services for fuelwood, timber, wild foods and medicinal plants. Yet many of these forests are undergoing degradation and loss, thus jeopardizing long-term ecosystem functioning and services. Measuring levels of forest dependence in agricultural communities is key to understanding livelihood sustainability and potential approaches to forest-based poverty alleviation. Understanding the ecological changes in forests where communities collect forest products, particularly fuelwood, is important for identifying approaches to forest conservation. To address these issues, I conducted social and ecological research in southern Malawi. I conducted household surveys (n=157) in agricultural communities to assess levels of forest dependence. I developed a new index to measure forest dependence that incorporates: the diversity of forest products collected to meet household needs, the effort involved in collection, relative wealth, and alternative livelihood strategies. I compared the index values for the study area to relative forest income values, the proportion of total income comprised by forest-derived income, which is the commonly used measurement of forest dependence. I showed that the relative forest income approach may underestimate levels of forest dependence, and that my new index provides insights into additional livelihood aspects of household forest dependence. I investigated tree species richness, abundance, diversity, composition and aboveground carbon (AGC) in forest plots (n=86) in the miombo woodlands where the farming communities harvest fuelwood, and compared them to reference sites in relatively undisturbed forests. I investigated whether proxies for harvesting access (elevation and distance to the main road) and harvesting pressure (number of settlements within a 3 km buffer) were correlated with the vegetation characteristics in the fuelwood harvesting sites. Tree species richness, abundance, diversity and AGC were lower in fuelwood harvesting sites than reference sites, species composition was significantly different, and the proxies for harvesting pressure and access were correlated with species abundance and AGC. The findings suggest that long-term sustainability of forest collection may be hindered due to forest degradation, which is problematic given the high forest dependence in the area. Interventions to increase sustainability of the social-ecological system could be explored.

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