“Dr. Mueller-Dombois has been called the “premier ecologist working on Pacific forests.” For over fifty years he has made major contributions to botanical science, ecology, and conservation in Hawaii and other regions of the Pacific.


Dr. Dieter Mueller-Dombois, ATBC Honorary Fellow, 2015. © Nicole Choy.

He is well known for establishing the Pacific-Asia Biodiversity Transect Network (PABITRA), a collaborative program established under the auspices of the Pacific Science Association for investigating the function of biodiversity and the health of ecosystems in the tropical Pacific Islands. PABITRA has generated a wealth of new data on biodiversity in the region and provided a critical venue for training local scientists and building scientific capacity in the participating countries.

Dr. Mueller-Dombois’s scholarly work synthesized European and Amerian traditions of plant ecology, culimating in the publication of the classic book, Aims and methods of Vegetation Ecology (with Heinz Elenberg) in 1974. This book has been cited over 5,000 times.

He has published more than 200 papers focused on many topics. His main area of research is dieback of Metrosideros forest in the Hawaiian Islands and forest dieback other regions. His work has revealed that forest dieback is a process of vegetation dynamics related to geomorphic aging and fundamental landscape change.

In 1998. together with Ray Fosberg, he produced a monumental analysis, Vegetation of the Tropical Pacific Islands, a lasting work of scholarship. Since he retired in 2000, Dr. Mueller-Dombois has written two more books: PABITRA Methods Book: Biodiversity Assessment of Tropical Island Ecosystems” (published online in 2005) with K.W. Bridges and C. Daehler, and Hawaii, the Fires of Life: Five Decades of Vegetation Development in Volcanoland, published in 2007.

Dr. Mueller-Dombois was born in Germany 90 years ago and moved to Canada to study Forestry after World War II. He receied his Ph.D. in Forest Ecology from the University of British Columbia in 1960. He moved to the University of Hawaii, Department of Botany in 1963 and taught there until he retired in 1990. He maintains active research and publishing on forest dynamics in Hawaii.

Dr. Dieter Mueller-Dombois and ATBC Executive Director Robin Chazdon at Hawaii, July 2015. (c) Frans Bongers

Dr. Dieter Mueller-Dombois and ATBC Executive Director Robin Chazdon at Hawaii, July 2015. © Frans Bongers

Dr. Muller-Dombois is no stranger to ATBC. He was the President of ATB in 1986.

It is very fitting that the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation award Dr. Dieter Mueller-Dombois an Honorary Fellow during the 2015 annual meeting in Hawaii. He has contributed more to the understanding, managing, and conserving the vegetation of the Pacific islands than any other scientist known today.”

ATBC is extremely honoured with Dr. Dr. Dieter Mueller-Dombois being an honorary fellow.