Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Chris Allen

Chris Allen

Senior Technical Officer (Ecology)


Science & Conservation


Evolutionary Ecology



(02) 9231 8115


(02) 9251 7231


  • Ecological research programs and analyses
  • Plant species modelling
  • Data maintenance, GIS and data integrity issues

Research interests

My principal research interest is in describing the distributions of native plant species, genetic, or trait groups, to enable an understanding of their interactions with existing, past and potential future habitats. To this end, I am interested in statistical and modelling methods and creating methodologies and biologically relevant datasets (climatic, edaphic, topographic and landscape) to more accurately model floristic distributions in relation to environmental variables. Having designed, maintained, populated and used many plant/animal databases of taxonomic/ecological/trait/genetic interest, I am concerned with data integrity and understanding the construction of floristic and environmental datasets. In particular I am interested in defining and enhancing biologically relevant datasets and understanding their subsequent limitations and potential for use.


biogeography, ecological modelling, plant ecology, conservation biology, community ecology, evolutionary ecology, plant diversity, species ensembles, GIS, traits, plant species associations

Current research projects

I aim to understand ecological and evolutionary processes that determine why species are distributed and associated the way they are and how these processes affect predictions of plant species distributions in the past and future. My four main research steps are: 1) describe plant species/genetics distributions during, current, previous thermal (glacial) maxima and minima, and potential future (climate change scenario) time frames; 2) overlay multiple species (with similar distributions or traits) to explore diversity and associations; 3) identify potential local barriers to multiple species and investigate adaptive responses; 4) Model species and genetic diversity gains/losses due to climate change, habitat fragmentation and other disruptive processes.

Most of my research covers species of the Australian east coast where biomass and biodiversity dominate the topographically diverse mosaic of the coast and mountains. This particularly includes the Australian rainforest habitats which contain a broad range of genetic and phenotypic types to explore. My research also focuses on the Sydney region with its complex set of management issues due to the dissected landscapes, soil types, biodiversity, land use and proximity to urbanisation. I work on a diverse range of projects with the rest of the Evolutionary Ecology team, including (but not limited to): modelling multi-species hotspots for sampling; modelling species genetic distributions under past climatic conditions; predicting future floristic distributions under climate change scenarios.

Peer-reviewed publications

  • Mellick R, Rossetto M, Allen C, Wilson PD, Hill RS, Lowe A (2013) Intraspecific divergence associated with a biogeographic barrier and climatic models show future threats and long-term decline of a rainforest conifer. The Open Conservation Biology Journal, 7, 1-10.
  • Maurizio Rossetto M, Allen C, Thurlby K, Weston P, Milner M (2012) Genetic structure and bio-climatic modeling support allopatric over parapatric speciation along a latitudinal gradient. BMC Evolutionary Biology 12(1): 149. DOI:10.1186/1471-2148-12-149
  • Mellick R, Lowe A, Allen C, Hill RS, Rossetto M (2012) Palaeodistribution modelling and genetic evidence highlight differential post-glacial range shifts of a rain forest conifer distributed across a latitudinal gradient. Journal of Biogeography 39, 2292-2302.
  • Kooyman R, Rossetto M, Allen C, Cornwell W (2012) Australian tropical and sub-tropical rain forest community assembly: phylogeny, functional biogeography, and environmental gradients. Biotropica 44(5): 668-679.
  • Rossetto M, Thurlby KA, Offord CA, Allen CB, Weston PH (2011) The impact of distance and a shifting temperature gradient on genetic connectivity across a heterogeneous landscape. BMC Evolutionary Biology 11: 126 DOI:10.1186/1471-2148-11-126.
  • Williams RJ, Allen CB, Kelleway J (2011) Saltmarsh of the Parramatta River-Sydney Harbour: determination of cover and species composition including comparison of API and pedestrian survey. Cunninghamia 12(1): 29-43.
  • Benson JS, Richards PG, Waller S, Allen CB (2010) New South Wales Vegetation Classification and Assessment: Part 3 Plant communities of the NSW Brigalow Belt South, Nandewar and west New England Bioregions and update of NSW Western Plains and South-western Slopes plant communities, Version 3 of the NSWVCA database. Cunninghamia 11(4): 457–579.
  • Benson J, Allen C (2007) Vegetation associated with Wollemia nobilis (Araucariaceae). Cunninghamia 10(2): 255-262.
  • Kelleway J, Williams RJ, Allen CB (2007) An Assessment of the Saltmarsh of the Parramatta River and Sydney Harbour. NSW Department of Primary Industries - Fisheries Final Report Series No. 90 ISSN 1449-9967.
  • Benson JS, Allen CB, Togher C, Lemmon J (2006) New South Wales Vegetation Classification and Assessment: Part 1 Plant communities of the NSW Western Plains. Cunninghamia 9(3): 383-450.