Sami Rifai

Dr Sami Rifai


School of Biological Sciences

Faculty of Sciences, Engineering and Technology

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD (as Co-Supervisor) - email supervisor to discuss availability.

I research how different aspects of global change are affecting the vegetation of terrestrial ecosystems. I mostly focus on how meteorological extremes affect the woody ecosystems of Australia and the tropics. I am particularly interested in the usage of Earth Observation technologies to examine processes in ecophysiology and ecosystem ecology. 

My research tends to utilize: 

  • Earth observation and remote sensing
  • climate data
  • statistical modeling
  • machine learning



Global Change Biology (2880)

  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2020 - 2023 Postdoctoral Research Associate University of New South Wales
    2017 - 2019 Postdoctoral Research Associate University of Oxford
    2017 - 2019 Oxford Martin Fellow University of Oxford
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2016 University of Florida United States PhD
    2008 University of Georgia United States MSc
    2005 University of California, Irvine United States BSc
  • Journals

    Year Citation
    2023 West, T. A. P., Wunder, S., Sills, E. O., Börner, J., Rifai, S. W., Neidermeier, A. N., . . . Kontoleon, A. (2023). Action needed to make carbon offsets from forest conservation work for climate change mitigation. Science (New York, N.Y.), 381(6660), 873-877.
    2023 Matos, I. S., Rifai, S. W., & Rosado, B. H. P. (2023). 2015/16 El Niño increased water demand and pushed plants from a Mesic tropical montane grassland beyond their hydraulic safety limits. Austral Ecology, 17 pages.
    2022 Li, S., Rifai, S., Anderson, L. O., & Sparrow, S. (2022). Identifying local‐scale meteorological conditions favorable to large fires in Brazil. Climate Resilience and Sustainability, 1(1).
    2022 De Kauwe, M. G., Sabot, M. E. B., Medlyn, B. E., Pitman, A. J., Meir, P., Cernusak, L. A., . . . Choat, B. (2022). Towards species-level forecasts of drought-induced tree mortality risk. New Phytologist, 235(1), 94-110.
    DOI Scopus7 WoS6
    2022 Bauman, D., Fortunel, C., Delhaye, G., Malhi, Y., Cernusak, L. A., Bentley, L. P., . . . McMahon, S. M. (2022). Tropical tree mortality has increased with rising atmospheric water stress. Nature, 608(7923), 528-533.
    DOI Scopus44 WoS40 Europe PMC4
    2022 Scalon, M. C., Oliveras Menor, I., Freitag, R., Peixoto, K. S., Rifai, S. W., Marimon, B. S., . . . Malhi, Y. (2022). Contrasting strategies of nutrient demand and use between savanna and forest ecosystems in a neotropical transition zone. Biogeosciences, 19(15), 3649-3661.
    DOI Scopus3 WoS3
    2022 Beringer, J., Moore, C. E., Cleverly, J., Campbell, D. I., Cleugh, H., De Kauwe, M. G., . . . Woodgate, W. (2022). Bridge to the future: Important lessons from 20 years of ecosystem observations made by the OzFlux network. Global Change Biology, 28(11), 3489-3514.
    DOI Scopus6 WoS2 Europe PMC2
    2022 Rifai, S. W., De Kauwe, M. G., Ukkola, A. M., Cernusak, L. A., Meir, P., Medlyn, B. E., & Pitman, A. J. (2022). Thirty-eight years of CO₂ fertilization has outpaced growing aridity to drive greening of Australian woody ecosystems. Biogeosciences, 19(2), 491-515.
    DOI Scopus9 WoS9
    2022 Bauman, D., Fortunel, C., Cernusak, L. A., Bentley, L. P., McMahon, S. M., Rifai, S. W., . . . Malhi, Y. (2022). Tropical tree growth sensitivity to climate is driven by species intrinsic growth rate and leaf traits. Global Change Biology, 28(4), 1414-1432.
    DOI Scopus7 WoS6 Europe PMC2
    2021 Li, S., Sparrow, S. N., Otto, F. E. L., Rifai, S. W., Oliveras, I., Krikken, F., . . . Wallom, D. (2021). Anthropogenic climate change contribution to wildfire-prone weather conditions in the Cerrado and Arc of deforestation. Environmental Research Letters, 16(9), 14 pages.
    DOI Scopus3 WoS3
    2021 David Urquiza Muñoz, J., Marra, D. M., Negrón-Juarez, R. I., Tello-Espinoza, R., Alegría-Muñoz, W., Pacheco-Gómez, T., . . . Trumbore, S. E. (2021). Recovery of forest structure following large-scale windthrows in the northwestern Amazon. Forests, 12(6), 667-1-667-15.
    DOI Scopus7
    2021 Huaraca Huasco, W., Riutta, T., Girardin, C. A. J., Hancco Pacha, F., Puma Vilca, B. L., Moore, S., . . . Malhi, Y. (2021). Fine root dynamics across pantropical rainforest ecosystems. Global Change Biology, 27(15), 3657-3680.
    DOI Scopus8 WoS8 Europe PMC3
    2021 Slot, M., Rifai, S. W., & Winter, K. (2021). Photosynthetic plasticity of a tropical tree species, Tabebuia rosea, in response to elevated temperature and [CO₂]. Plant Cell and Environment, 44(7), 2347-2364.
    DOI Scopus8 WoS10 Europe PMC1
    2021 Malhi, Y., Girardin, C., Metcalfe, D. B., Doughty, C. E., Aragão, L. E. O. C., Rifai, S. W., . . . Phillips, O. L. (2021). The Global Ecosystems Monitoring network: Monitoring ecosystem productivity and carbon cycling across the tropics. Biological Conservation, 253, 108889-1-108889-14.
    DOI Scopus27
    2021 Aguirre-Gutiérrez, J., Rifai, S., Shenkin, A., Oliveras, I., Bentley, L. P., Svátek, M., . . . Malhi, Y. (2021). Pantropical modelling of canopy functional traits using Sentinel-2 remote sensing data. Remote Sensing of Environment, 252, 112122-1-112122-18.
    DOI Scopus26 WoS25
    2020 De Kauwe, M. G., Medlyn, B. E., Ukkola, A. M., Mu, M., Sabot, M. E. B., Pitman, A. J., . . . Briggs, P. R. (2020). Identifying areas at risk of drought-induced tree mortality across South-Eastern Australia. Global Change Biology, 26(10), 5716-5733.
    DOI Scopus66 WoS67 Europe PMC6
    2020 Liang, B., Chen, X., Lang, W., Liu, G., Malhi, Y., & Rifai, S. (2020). Examining land surface phenology in the tropical moist forest eco-zone of South America. International Journal of Biometeorology, 64(11), 1911-1922.
    2020 Matos, I. S., Menor, I. O., Rifai, S. W., & Rosado, B. H. P. (2020). Deciphering the stability of grassland productivity in response to rainfall manipulation experiments. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 29(3), 558-572.
    DOI Scopus23 WoS20
    2019 Morel, A. C., Hirons, M., Demissie, S., Gonfa, T., Mehrabi, Z., Long, P. R., . . . Norris, K. (2019). The structures underpinning vulnerability: Examining landscape-society interactions in a smallholder coffee agroforestry system. Environmental Research Letters, 14(7), 075006.
    DOI Scopus7 WoS5
    2019 Park, J. Y., Muller-Landau, H. C., Lichstein, J. W., Rifai, S. W., Dandois, J. P., & Bohlman, S. A. (2019). Quantifying leaf phenology of individual trees and species in a tropical forest using unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) images. Remote Sensing, 11(13), 1534-1-1534-32.
    DOI Scopus67 WoS64
    2019 Fonseca, L. D. M., Dalagnol, R., Malhi, Y., Rifai, S. W., Costa, G. B., Silva, T. S. F., . . . Borma, L. S. (2019). Phenology and seasonal ecosystem productivity in an Amazonian floodplain forest. Remote Sensing, 11(13), 1530-1-1530-17.
    DOI Scopus14 WoS14
    2019 Núñez-Regueiro, M. M., Fletcher, R. J., Pienaar, E. F., Branch, L. C., Volante, J. N., & Rifai, S. (2019). Adding the temporal dimension to spatial patterns of payment for ecosystem services enrollment. Ecosystem Services, 36, 6 pages.
    DOI Scopus14 WoS12
    2019 Aguirre-Gutiérrez, J., Oliveras, I., Rifai, S., Fauset, S., Adu-Bredu, S., Affum-Baffoe, K., . . . Malhi, Y. (2019). Drier tropical forests are susceptible to functional changes in response to a long-term drought. Ecology Letters, 22(5), 855-865.
    DOI Scopus62 WoS59 Europe PMC11
    2019 Rifai, S. W., Li, S., & Malhi, Y. (2019). Coupling of El Niño events and long-term warming leads to pervasive climate extremes in the terrestrial tropics. Environmental Research Letters, 14(10), 11 pages.
    DOI Scopus35 WoS31
    2018 Magnabosco Marra, D., Trumbore, S. E., Higuchi, N., Ribeiro, G. H. P. M., Negrón-Juárez, R. I., Holzwarth, F., . . . Wirth, C. (2018). Windthrows control biomass patterns and functional composition of Amazon forests. Global Change Biology, 24(12), 5867-5881.
    DOI Scopus38 WoS38 Europe PMC4
    2018 Visakorpi, K., Gripenberg, S., Malhi, Y., Bolas, C., Oliveras, I., Harris, N., . . . Riutta, T. (2018). Small-scale indirect plant responses to insect herbivory could have major impacts on canopy photosynthesis and isoprene emission. New Phytologist, 220(3), 799-810.
    DOI Scopus24 WoS21 Europe PMC8
    2018 Burton, C., Rifai, S., & Malhi, Y. (2018). Inter-comparison and assessment of gridded climate products over tropical forests during the 2015/2016 El Niño. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 373(1760), 20170406-1-20170406-10.
    DOI Scopus19 WoS18 Europe PMC2
    2018 Rifai, S. W., Girardin, C. A. J., Berenguer, E., Del Aguila-Pasquel, J., Dahlsjö, C. A. L., Doughty, C. E., . . . Malhi, Y. (2018). ENSO Drives interannual variation of forest woody growth across the tropics. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 373(1760), 20170410-1-20170410-13.
    DOI Scopus34 WoS31 Europe PMC10
    2018 Negrón-Juárez, R. I., Holm, J. A., Marra, D. M., Rifai, S. W., Riley, W. J., Chambers, J. Q., . . . Higuchi, N. (2018). Vulnerability of Amazon forests to storm-driven tree mortality. Environmental Research Letters, 13(5), 054021.
    DOI Scopus45 WoS44
    2017 Wilson, C. H., Caughlin, T. T., Rifai, S. W., Boughton, E. H., Mack, M. C., & Flory, S. L. (2017). Multi-decadal time series of remotely sensed vegetation improves prediction of soil carbon in a subtropical grassland. Ecological Applications, 27(5), 1646-1656.
    DOI Scopus23 WoS22 Europe PMC3
    2017 Tucker Lima, J. M., Vittor, A., Rifai, S., & Valle, D. (2017). Does deforestation promote or inhibit malaria transmission in the Amazon? A systematic literature review and critical appraisal of current evidence. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 372(1722), 20160125.
    DOI Scopus67 WoS54 Europe PMC32
    2016 Caughlin, T. T., Rifai, S. W., Graves, S. J., Asner, G. P., & Bohlman, S. A. (2016). Integrating LiDAR-derived tree height and Landsat satellite reflectance to estimate forest regrowth in a tropical agricultural landscape. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation, 2(4), 190-203.
    DOI Scopus23
    2016 Rifai, S. W., Urquiza Muñoz, J. D., Negrón-Juárez, R. I., Ramírez Arévalo, F. R., Tello-Espinoza, R., Vanderwel, M. C., . . . Bohlman, S. A. (2016). Landscape-scale consequences of differential tree mortality from catastrophic wind disturbance in the Amazon. Ecological Applications, 26(7), 2225-2237.
    DOI Scopus33 WoS33 Europe PMC11
    2015 Rifai, S. W., West, T. A. P., & Putz, F. E. (2015). "Carbon Cowboys" could inflate REDD+ payments through positive Measurement bias. Carbon Management, 6(3-4), 151-158.
    DOI Scopus10 WoS9
    2014 Cho, A. H., Johnson, S. A., Schuman, C. E., Adler, J. M., Gonzalez, O., Graves, S. J., . . . Bruna, E. M. (2014). Women are underrepresented on the editorial boards of journals in environmental biology and natural resource management. PeerJ, 2014(1), 11 pages.
    DOI Scopus71 WoS71 Europe PMC21
    2014 Graves, S. J., Rifai, S. W., & Putz, F. E. (2014). Outer bark thickness decreases more with height on stems of fire-resistant than fire-sensitive Floridian oaks (Quercus spp.; Fagaceae). American Journal of Botany, 101(12), 2183-2188.
    DOI Scopus51 WoS49 Europe PMC5
    2011 Negrón-Juárez, R. I., Chambers, J. Q., Marra, D. M., Ribeiro, G. H. P. M., Rifai, S. W., Higuchi, N., & Roberts, D. (2011). Detection of subpixel treefall gaps with Landsat imagery in Central Amazon forests. Remote Sensing of Environment, 115(12), 3322-3328.
    DOI Scopus49 WoS42 Europe PMC5
    2010 Rifai, S. W., Markewitz, D., & Borders, B. (2010). Twenty years of intensive fertilization and competing vegetation suppression in loblolly pine plantations: Impacts on soil C, N, and microbial biomass. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 42(5), 713-723.
    DOI Scopus41 WoS38 Europe PMC1
    - De Kauwe, M., Sabot, M., Medlyn, B., Pitman, A., Meir, P., Cernusak, L., . . . Choat, B. (n.d.). Towards species-level forecasts of drought-induced tree mortality risk.
    - Scalon, M. C., Oliveras Menor, I., Freitag, R., Peixoto, K. S., Rifai, S. W., Marimon, B. S., . . . Malhi, Y. (n.d.). Contrasting strategies of nutrient demand and use between savanna and forest ecosystems in a Neotropical transition zone.
    - Scalon, M. C., Oliveras Menor, I., Freitag, R., Peixoto, K. S., Rifai, S. W., Marimon, B. S., . . . Malhi, Y. (n.d.). Supplementary material to "Contrasting strategies of nutrient demand and use between savanna and forest ecosystems in a Neotropical transition zone".
    - De Kauwe, M., Sabot, M., Medlyn, B., Pitman, A., Meir, P., Cernusak, L., . . . Choat, B. (n.d.). Towards species-level forecasts of drought-induced tree mortality risk.
  • Conference Papers

    Year Citation
    2007 Santos, G. M., Mazon, M., Southon, J. R., Rifai, S., & Moore, R. (2007). Evaluation of iron and cobalt powders as catalysts for C-14-AMS target preparation. In NUCLEAR INSTRUMENTS & METHODS IN PHYSICS RESEARCH SECTION B-BEAM INTERACTIONS WITH MATERIALS AND ATOMS Vol. 259 (pp. 308-315). Univ Calif Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: ELSEVIER SCIENCE BV.
    DOI WoS35

Earth Observation III (SPATIAL 3010)

  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2023 Co-Supervisor Under what circumstances can southern bluefin tuna be detected using satellite imagery? Master of Philosophy Master Part Time Mr Ian Robert Dewey
    2023 Co-Supervisor Monitoring arid land condition for conservation using remote sensing technologies Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Angus Eugene Retallack
  • Other Supervision Activities

    Date Role Research Topic Location Program Supervision Type Student Load Student Name
    2022 - ongoing External Supervisor Investigating data-driven methods for characterising, understanding, and predicting Australia’s terrestrial carbon cycle The Australian National University Fenner School of Environment Doctorate - Chad Burton
  • Position: Lecturer
  • Email:
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Oliphant, floor Third Floor
  • Room: 306
  • Org Unit: School of Biological Sciences

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