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Petter Axelsson

I work as a researcher at the department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. I’m interested in the influence of inter- and intra-specific variation in foundation plant species (such as trees) on the ecosystems they help define.


The questions of focus in my research include the influence of inter- and intra-specific variation in plants on associated communities and ecosystems, and how this relates to plant performance. Typically I use a combination of lab-studies in controlled environments, common garden approaches, as well as experiments and observations in wildland settings to address these questions. Applied usage of this information include maximizing efficiency and output of restoration and forestry, and biodiversity management. I have broad geographical interests and have experience working in boreal, temperate and tropical forest ecosystems.


I am PI of a FORMAS financed project where we address the genetic influence of Norway spruce (Picea abies) on soil ecosystems.

Web page under development

I am also enrolled in the Sow-a-seed project in Sabah, Borneo were we are currently setting up a 15 000 tree common garden with a range of native tropical trees in Sabah, Borneo. This is a world leading effort including genetic material from 9 different mother-trees from different populations throughout Sabah. Through the set-up of this common garden we will start a world leading line of research to encapsulate the full genetic potential of tropical trees of SE Asia.    

The Sow-a-seed project

I also have long experience studying the influence of genetically modified trees on non-target organisms, species interactions and ecosystem function. Currently I am enrolled in a project studying how dead wood from GM trees may impact saproxylic organisms (beetles and fungi).

Transgenic trees: a multidisciplinary approach to problems related to public attitudes, social acceptance and ecological risks.


Selected publications

[16] Lussetti D, Axelsson EP, Ilstedt U, Falck J and Karlsson A (2016). Supervised logging and climber cutting improves stand development: 18 years of post-logging data in a tropical rain forest in Borneo. Forest Ecology and Management 381: 335-346.

[15] Keskitalo ECH, Bergh J, Felton A, Björkman C, Berlin M, Axelsson EP, Ring E, Ågren A, Roberge JM, Klapwijk MJ (2016) Adaptation to Climate Change in Swedish Forestry. Forests 7(2). 28; doi:10.3390/f7020028

[14] Axelsson EP, Iason G, Julkunen-Tiitto R and Whitham TG (2015). Host Genetics and Environment Drive Divergent Responses of Two Resource Sharing Gall-Formers on Norway Spruce: A Common Garden Analysis. PLoS ONE 10(11):e0142257. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142257.

[13] Hjältén J and Axelsson EP (2015). GM trees with increased resistance to herbivores: trait efficiency and their potential to promote tree growth. Front. Plant Sci. 6:279. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2015.00279

[12] Axelsson EP, Lundmark T, Högberg P and Nordin A. (2014) Belowground Competition Directs Spatial Patterns of Seedling Growth in Boreal Pine Forests in Fennoscandia. Forests 5:2106-2121

[11] Axelsson EP and Stenberg JA. (2014) Associational resistance mediates interacting effects of herbivores and competitors on Fireweed performance. Basic and Applied Ecology 15:10-17.

[10] Hjältén J, Axelsson EP, Julkunen-Tiitto R, Wennström A and Pilate G. (2013) Innate and introduced resistance traits in genetically modified aspen trees and their effect on leaf beetle feeding. PLoS ONE 8(9): e73819. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073819

[9] Axelsson EP and Andersson J. (2012) A case study of termite mound occurrence in relation to forest edges and canopy cover within the Barandabhar Forest Corridor in Nepal. International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation 4:633-641 

[8] Axelsson EP and Stenberg JA. (2012) Associational resistance in a multiple herbivore system: differential effects of mammal vs. insect herbivores. Ecological Research 27:1053-1058

[7] Axelsson EP and Hjältén J. (2012) Tolerance and growth responses of populus hybrids and their genetically modified varieties to simulated leaf damage and harvest. Forest Ecology and Management 276, 217-223.

[6] Hjältén J, Axelsson EP, Whitham TG, LeRoy CJ, Julkunen-Tiitto R, Wennström A and Pilate G. (2012) Increased resistance of Bt aspens to Phratora vitellinae (Coleoptera) leads to increased plant growth under experimental conditions. PLoS ONE 7(1): e30640.

[5] Axelsson EP, Hjältén J and LeRoy CJ. (2012) Performance of insect-resistant Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)-expressing aspens under semi-natural field conditions including natural herbivory in Sweden. Forest Ecology and Management 264 (15): 167-171.

[4] Axelsson EP, Hjältén J, LeRoy CJ, Whitham TG, Julkunen-Tiitto R and Wennström A. (2011) Leaf litter from insect-resistant transgenic trees cause changes in aquatic insect community composition. Journal of Applied Ecology 48: 1472-1479.

[3] Axelsson EP, Hjältén J, Whitham TG, Julkunen-Tiitto R, Pilate G and Wennström A. (2011) Leaf ontogeny interacts with Bt-modification to affect innate resistance in GM aspens. Chemoecology, 21(3): 161-169. 

[2] Axelsson EP, Hjältén J, LeRoy CJ, Julkunen-Tiitto R, Wennström A, and Pilate G. (2010). Can leaf litter from genetically modified trees affect aquatic ecosystems? Ecosystems 13(7):1049-1059.

[1] Stenberg JA and Axelsson EP. (2008). Host race formation in the meadowsweet and strawberry feeding leaf beetle Galerucella tenella. Basic and Applied Ecology, 9 (5): 560-567.