Cleiton Eller’s project attempts to use evolutionary principles to understand plant mortality during drought and coexistence in arid environments. It is an essential field of study, given the growing concern about climate change. His academic career is based at the State University of Campinas, where Cleiton completed his undergraduate degree in biological sciences, followed by his master’s degree and doctorate in ecology. He was at the University of Exeter, England, during his postdoctoral studies. He is currently a professor at the Federal University of Ceará.
A vegetarian for more than twenty years, Cleiton also cultivates reading in his free time. His favourite themes are philosophy, history and mythology. Averse to waking up early, the scientist also likes to lift weights, always in the company of his loyal canines.
Recent climate changes have caused vegetation mortality in several ecosystems on the planet. Knowledge about how plants die during drought has advanced greatly in recent decades. However, due to the complexity of the physiological mechanisms involved in plant mortality, we have yet to be able to predict this process reliably. In this project, I propose a hypothesis based on evolutionary optimization theory to predict plant mortality during drought. According to this hypothesis, plants must dynamically adjust their physiological processes, such as photosynthesis, transpiration and carbon storage, to maximize their chances of survival during drought. This hypothesis can also explain how plant communities share water resources in arid environments. We will experimentally test this hypothesis with field observations from plant communities along a precipitation gradient.