October 28, 2009

Extending partnerships for tropical forest science in Taiwan

During a recent visit to Taiwan, Stuart Davies, CTFS Director; Dr. I-Fang Sun, Tunghai University (left, seated); Dr. Yue-hsing Huang, Director of the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute (center, seated); Mr. Jen-teh Yen, Director of the Taiwan Forestry Bureau (seated second from right); and Dr. Hen-Biau King (TFRI [far right, seated]) agreed to extend the successful partnership for forest research and training in Taiwan. CTFS signed an MOU with the Forestry Research Institute and Forestry Bureau on September 29 to formalize the three groups’ cooperative commitment to recensusing and managing the 25-ha Fushan and Lienhuachih plots.

A new MOU between Tunghai University and CTFS was signed on October 2 by President Hyden Chen and CTFS, reaffirming the long-standing partnership to advance tropical forest ecology, forestry science, and natural resource management in Taiwan and Southeast Asia. The four Taiwanese plots managed by Tunghai, CTFS, and partners are located in Fushan, Lienhuachih, Kenting, and Nanjenshan Nature Reserves.

October 19, 2009

Data-analysis workshop in Albuquerque

Immediately following the ESA annual meeting, over thirty CTFS scientists gathered to work on research projects using more than a dozen plot data sets. The workshop focused on data analysis and manuscript preparation and was held at the LTER facilities at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque from 9-18 August 2009. The collaborative work of this diverse group was very productive, and we anticipate several significant publications to result from the meeting. 

Despite the grueling schedule of back-to-back long days in the lab working on data sets, participants did find time to explore the striking New Mexico landscape.

CTFS at the 94th annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America

by Beth King

For the first time, researchers from tropical forests in the Americas, Asia, and Africa and those from temperate forests in China, Canada, and the US met to map the future for CTFS. Network researchers presented more than 60 talks and posters at the 2009 annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, held in  Albuquerque, NM, August 2-7. Click here to read an ESA Bulletin report on the CTFS talks.

The strength of the network lies in the use of a single method to track forest dynamics. Stephen P. Hubbell, who co-founded the first large-scale long-term forest dynamics monitoring plot on Barro Colorado Island in 1979, was presented with ESA’s Eminent Ecologist Award. Hubbell is best known for developing the Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and Biogeography, the first testable explanation for the diversity of tropical forests.

Hubbell described the Neutral Theory as “not dead yet, but definitely moribund,” and proposed a new idea —the Enemy Susceptibility Hypothesis—to explain commonness and rarity in tropical tree species.

Scott Mangan, working on Barro Colorado Island in Panama, presented information at this meeting that something in soils— perhaps fungal pathogens—mediate the distribution of forest trees.

Richard Condit, staff scientist at STRI, can accurately predict the spatial distribution of trees in the plots based on colonization and extinction information. He thinks that the high diversity of individual forests results from ongoing species arrival from a much larger community, not from local niche differences. Local patterns of diversity may be driven by niche differences across continents and long time scales.

Network researchers are focusing outward, looking for processes on large, landscape scales, something that is only possible because the plots in the network are big and comparisons between them are possible. Forest experts at each site have intimate knowledge of local on-the-ground processes and can quickly say whether global models make sense.

Long-term studies show that forests change extremely rapidly in response to factors as diverse as rainfall and wind patterns, elephant damage, and leaf-eating mites. Data from Wisconsin and Ontario show that temperate forests exhibit many of the same biological properties as tropical forests.

Forests are responsible for about half of the carbon absorbed by all land plants. It is therefore vital to know what trees do when atmospheric carbon skyrockets past levels that forests have experienced over the past 400,000 years.

STRI’s Helene Muller-Landau leads the CTFS Global Carbon Research Initiative. The project will monitor the yearly growth of more than 10,000 trees around the world. So far, it appears that measuring the size of trees is the best way to predict how much carbon is being taken up by a forest.

Gutianshan, China—one of a unique set of sites coordinated by Ma Keping and colleagues at the Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, that span a latitudinal gradient including temperate, subtropical, and tropical forests—will become a focus of the HSBC Climate Partnership in September. HSBC bank believes that hands-on participation will help employees connect the dots between their own lifestyles, global change, and sustainable forest management.

Looking forward, network researchers plan to survey the functional traits of all 8,000 species under the direction of S. Joseph Wright, staff scientist at STRI. They hope to barcode all of the species and create a phylogeny for species that have been barcoded. They plan to continue to census the existing plots and establish new temperate plots and will begin to more systematically quantify other organisms in the plots. The insect group will be led by Yves Basset at STRI.

Jerry Franklin, forest ecologist from the University of Washington who has studied forests of the Pacific Northwest since the late 1950s, talked about what it takes to create such a global network. Leaders mentor students from many different cultures and transfer the essential concepts to professionals who carry on when they are ready to hand off the baton. Institutions provide stability and continuity.

Stuart Davies, STRI director Eldredge Bermingham, and their staffs have taken the lead in finding long-term financial support for the network. Financial support, especially in the form of long-term endowments or government funding, is essential to CTFS efforts to monitor the health of the world’s forests and their response to climate change. As Jerry Franklin said at the meeting: “If ecologists had as much money as the people who predict the weather, think of what we could do!”

Publications: Sep - Oct 2009

To obtain a PDF of an article, please email Suzanne Lao at laoz@si.edu

Comita, LS, BMJ Engelbrecht. 2009. Seasonal and spatial variation in water availability drive habitat associations in a tropical forest. Ecology 90(10): 2755-2765.

Comita, LS, M Uriarte, J Thompson, I Jonckheere, CD Canham, and JK Zimmerman. Abiotic and biotic drivers of seedling survival in a hurricane-impacted tropical forest. 2009. Journal of Ecology 97(6): 1346-1359.

Crk, T, M Uriarte, F Corsi, and D Flynn. 2009. Forest recovery in a tropical landscape: what is the relative importance of biophysical, socioeconomic, and landscape variables? Landscape Ecology 24: 629-642.

Dick, CW, WJ Kress. 2009. Dissecting tropical plant diversity with forest plots and a molecular toolkit. BioScience 59: 745-755.

Legendre, P, X Mi, H Ren, K Ma, M Yu, I-F Sun, and F He. 2009. Partitioning beta diversity in a subtropical broad-leaved forest of China. Ecology 90(3) 663-674.

Queenborough, SA, DFRP Burslem, NC Garwood, and R Valencia. 2009. Taxonomic scale-dependence of habitat niche partitioning and biotic neighbourhood on survival of tropical tree seedlings. Proc. R. Soc. B. 276: 4197-4205.

Queenborough, SA, SJ Mazer, SM Vamosi, NC Garwood, R Valencia, and RP Freckleton. 2009. Seed mass, abundance and breeding system among tropical forest species: do dioecious species exhibit compensatory reproduction or abundances? Journal of Ecology 97(3): 555-566.

Swenson, NG, BJ Enquist. 2009. Opposing assembly mechanisms in a Neotropical dry forest: implications for phylogenetic and functional community ecology. Ecology 90(8): 2161-2170.

Valencia, R, R Condit, HC Muller-Landau, C Hernandez, and H Navarrete. 2009. Dissecting biomass dynamics in a large Amazonian forest plot. Journal of Tropical Ecology 25: 473-482.

Publications: Jul - Aug 2009

To obtain a PDF of an article, please email Suzanne Lao at laoz@si.edu

Adachi, M, A Ishida, S Bunyavejchewin, T Okuda, and H Koizumi. 2009. Spatial and temporal variation in soil respiration in a seasonally dry tropical forest, Thailand. Journal of Tropical Ecology 25: 531-539.

Brenes-Arguedas, T, PD Coley, TA Kursar. 2009. Pests vs. drought as determinants of plant distribution along a tropical rainfall gradient. Ecology 90(7): 1751-1761.

Sungpalee, W, A Itoh, M Kanzaki, K Sri-ngernyuang, HNoguchi, T Mizuno, S Teejuntuk, M Hara, K Chai-udom, Ta Ohkubo, P Sahunalu, P Dhanmmanonda, S Nanami, T Yamakura, and A Sorn-ngai. 2009. Intra- and interspecific variation in wood density and fine-scale spatial distribution of stand-level wood density in a northern Thai tropical montane forest. Journal of Tropical Ecology 25: 359-370.

Uriarte, M, CD Canham, J Thompson, J Zimmerman, L Murphy, AM Sabat, N Fetcher, and BL Haines. 2009. Natural disturbance and human land use as determinants of tropical forest dynamics: results from a forest simulator. Ecological Monographs 79(3): 423-443.

October 17, 2009

Thanks to Adriana Sautu for her contributions to CTFS over many years

As many of you may already know, Adriana Sautu has left CTFS to purse her passion for children’s science education as the Director of Education at the Museum of Biodiversity in Panama. We wish her all the best and will miss her enthusiasm and cheer.