Division  of Ecology & Biodiversity

The Ecology & Biodiversity Research Area provides a focus for research and teaching on natural and impacted environments in Hong Kong and the Asian region, with emphasis on the ecology, conservation, and management of all levels of biodiversity.

The variety of living organisms, and the ecological systems in which they occur are essential for all life, including the global biological resources that support humans. The Southeast Asian region is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world yet it also amongst some of the most impacted, making research to understand, manage and conserve natural diversity and ecosystems imperative.

Anthropogenically driven environmental change, including global climate, is increasingly affecting the diversity of biological communities as well as the structure and functioning of ecosystems. One of many ways this occurs is through shifts in species’ distribution and abundance in response to climate change, but considerably more research is needed to understand links between global change and shifts in biogeographic distributions and population demographics.

Our research groups cover most natural realms, with strengths in conservation and ecology of insects, terrestrial and aquatic plants, wildlife and illegal trade, fresh water rivers, rocky intertidal and subtidal habitats, corals, and mangroves. In addition, we have large research programs in the ecology of manmade structures and how to make them more ecologically sustainable.


Major Research Areas

Freshwater ecology and conservation

Ecology and conservation of freshwater biodiversity; energy flow and feeding interactions in forest streams; the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning; potential effects of climate change; assembly of novel freshwater ecosystems.


Environmental microbiology and microbial ecotoxicology

Anaerobic ammonium oxidation and nitrification; microbial transformation of organic pollutants and detoxification of metals and metalloids; plasmids and diversity; diversity of Vibrio species and gene transfer; extracellular enzymes and activity; phytoremediation.


Aquatic toxicology and ecological risk assessment

Aquatic toxicology and ecophysiology, ecological risk assessment and quantitative ecology.



Fish biology and ecology, fisheries management, reproductive biology of reef fishes, life history, threatened species and conservation.


Plant systematics and phylogenetics

Systematics and phylogenetics of flowering plants, involving an integrated approach to descriptive taxonomy, phylogenetic reconstruction and biogeography, based on morphological and molecular data; plant reproductive biology, including phenology, pollination ecology, and assessments of breeding systems.


Plant conservation biology and population genetics

Conservation biology, crop genetic resources and molecular evolution, medicinal and food plants, evolution of invasive weeds.


Larval biology, biomineralisation and environmental proteomics

Climate change threats to larval forms of commercially important marine invertebrates, ecological and economic consequences of larval exposure to climate change, physiological and molecular mechanisms of larval adaptation/acclimatisation to climate change stressors, and larval biomineralisation and biomechanics at the time of settlement and metamorphosis.


Conservation ecology

Major drivers of extinction risks and threats to terrestrial and aquatic species, value of biodiversity, global and national tools for managing and preserving biological diversity.


Intertidal ecology

Understanding the distribution and diversity of intertidal communities; the interactions of the species that make up these communities, and their responses to environmental change. Special emphasis is given to the biogeography of intertidal species in the NW Pacific, their phylogenetic relationships and ecophysiological abilities to tolerate thermal stress.


Marine biodiversity and paleontology

Climatic and anthropogenic impacts on marine ecosystems; large-scale marine biodiversity patterns; Cenozoic biogeography; tropical biodiversity; deep-sea ecology; abrupt surface climate and deep-water changes; Quaternary paleoceanography; paleontology of Ostracoda.


Marine environmental research

Molecular, biochemical, physiological and ecological responses of marine animals to environmental stresses.


Coral reef ecology

Historical marine ecology of coral communities in SE Asia: physiological and molecular ecology of marine symbioses; food web (stable isotope) dynamics.


Mangrove ecology

Ecology and conservation of mangrove forests; mangrove trees-invertebrate interactions and ecosystem functioning; feeding behaviour of mangrove crabs; impact of multiple stressors on behaviour, physiology and genetic variability of mangrove crab populations. Patterns of biodiversity in mangrove South East Asia and biogeography of mangrove crab species.


Evolutionary biology and ecology

Mechanisms and processes driving micro-evolutionary dynamics of natural populations, molecular ecology, phylogeography, quantitative genetics, functional and comparative genomics.


If you’d like to contact our Faculty member who is carrying out research closest to your interests, you could check our Staff page