December 23, 2010

Publications, Oct - Dec 2010

Eastwood, R., P. Kongnoo, and M. Reinkaw. Collecting and eating Liphyra brassolis (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) in southern Thailand. The Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera (2010) 43: 51-61.
Full text

Kraft, N. J. B., M. R. Metz, R. S. Condit, and J. Chave. 2010. The relationship between wood density and mortality in a global tropical forest data set. New Phytologist, 188: 1124–1136.

December 21, 2010

HSBC Volunteers Working with CTFS in Singapore on Climate Change

Non-scientists actively contributing to science—that is what Climate Champions from HSBC are doing in Singapore. This 10-week program is a collaboration between CTFS and HSBC-Singapore. More than 100 HSBC staff are tagging trees, putting dendrometer bands on trees to measure growth, and collecting leaf samples for species identification. The work is being done in forests surrounding MacRitchie Reservoir in Singapore. The program started with just 9 volunteers in the first session and has grown to 23 at the latest session on 11 November 2010.

This study complements the ongoing research done in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR), where CTFS researchers have installed 1500 dendrometers as a part of their study to understand the response of forests to climate change. BTNR has mostly hilly terrain, while the MacRitchie site is flat, and each site has a different suite of species. The main objectives of this program are to compare carbon stock differences between the two reserves, and also to create greater awareness within HSBC about climate change issues.

December 15, 2010

Loss of Two Philippine Friends

CTFS and the scientific community lost two friends and colleagues on 15 and 16 November 2010. Leonardo Co was shot and killed by the Philippine army while doing field work on Leyte Island, Philippines, and Dr. Daniel Lagunzad died of liver cancer, which he had been nursing quietly for some time. Leonardo was a long-time employee of Conservation International Philippines and Daniel was on the Biology faculty at the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus. The two men were prominent leaders of plant biology and biodiversity science in the Philippines.

Leonardo Co and Daniel Lagunzad.

For the past 17 years, CTFS has been working with Leonardo and Daniel and other colleagues in the Philippines to manage a 16-ha forest dynamics plot in the Palanan area of northeastern Luzon. As the lead field botanist on the project, Leonardo identified all trees in the 16-ha plot, and Daniel led the local plot administration. Together they trained many of the students and interns involved in the Palanan field work. They were the plot’s two Principal Investigators.

Their deaths are great losses not only to the Philippines and to CTFS, but also to the worldwide botanical community. All at CTFS pass on their deepest condolences to Leonardo’s and Daniel’s families and friends.

December 3, 2010

25 Years of Research at Pasoh

Researchers from around the world assembled at the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) in early November for a symposium to celebrate 25 years of research on the Pasoh Forest Reserve in Peninsular Malaysia. The 50-ha Pasoh plot was the second in the CTFS network. It was established in 1985 under the leadership of Dr. Wan Razali Wan Mohd (FRIM), Dr. Peter Ashton (Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University), and Dr. Stephen Hubbell (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute). Since then, Pasoh has become the best-studied rainforest in Southeast Asia.

The CTFS-Arnold Arboretum Asia Program plays a key role in working with FRIM to develop Pasoh’s scientific programs and conduct leading forest research. The plot contains 814 species and represents 25% of the tree species of Peninsular Malaysia. The 6th census is underway.

November 30, 2010

Large-Scale Throughfall Measurement System Installed at Agua Salud

by Frank Base

Following the long-term approach of the Agua Salud Project, researchers recently installed three automatic-logging trough systems to measure throughfall in a 5-year-old secondary succession forest at Agua Salud. The purpose of the permanent trough system is to document the temporal changes in throughfall as the secondary forest grows and develops.

Juan Carlos Briseño, technical assistant, finishing one of the new trough systems. Photo by Frank Base.

The trough systems consist of 32 three-meter open tubes (troughs) connected like feathers on the wings of a bird. One wing spreads over an area of 9 m x 3 m. The system in total has an opening of about 12 m². At the center of the construction, a logging tipping bucket catches all drained water and has a capacity of 3 L per tip. Within one hour, 2160 L can be measured. This capacity equals a rain intensity of 195 mm/h, which is sufficient for the strongest rain events in the Agua Salud area based on data from 2008-2010.

Before installing the system, Agua Salud researchers had been using 100 funnels to measure throughfall manually since 2008. The new automatic system now provides continuous measurement of throughfall over the course of the year, enabling us to characterize variations over time and correlate them with rainfall intensity.

Measuring throughfall with trough systems is not new, however. Cuartas et al. (2007) used a trough system covering 1.8 m² with 6-m troughs and a tipping bucket capacity of 125 ml per tip in central Amazonia, Brazil. And McJannet et al. (2007) used 6-m long troughs in a star formation covering an area of 2.4 m² - 3.6 m² in an Australian tropical rainforest. Their tipping buckets had a capacity of 1.8 L - 2.1 L per tip.

Scale is the main difference between the systems used in Brazil and Australia and the one at Agua Salud. We have built, as far as we know, one of the biggest trough systems in the world. Such a large measuring system is necessary to reduce the effect of throughfall on spatial variability caused by extreme structural differences in the canopy of secondary forests. By sampling such a large area, we hope to smooth out the variation caused by canopy structure.

Cuartas, LA, J Tomasella, AD Nobre, MG Hodnett, MJ Waterloo, and JC Munera. 2007. Interception water-partitioning dynamics for a pristine rainforest in Central Amazonia: Marked differencesbetween normal and dry years. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 145: 69-83.

McJannet, D, J Wallace, and P Reddell. 2007. Precipitation interception in Australian tropical rainforests: I. Measurement of stemflow, throughfall and cloud Interception. Hydrological Processes 21: 1692–1702.

November 15, 2010

Seven Censuses over 30 years on BCI

Three decades after Stephen Hubbell and Robin Foster established the first plot in what would become the CTFS-SIGEO network, researchers and field technicians recently completed the seventh census of the 50-ha plot on Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama. The 1980 census on BCI marked the beginning of CTFS-SIGEO, pioneering the use of long-term large-scale tree-censusing techniques that researchers have replicated in forests across the globe. Today, CTFS-SIGEO comprises a network of 40 plots in 21 countries in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Europe. The network involves hundreds of scientists and dozens of institutions around the world working together to study the growth and survival of 4.5 million trees of 8,500 species.

The following figures based on seven censuses (1980-2010) at BCI illustrate the extraordinary scale and intensity of CTFS-SIGEO’s research program.

1,836,533 diameter measurements of stems ≥1 cm

391,278 individual trees counted

174,435 tree deaths

155,955 trees recruited

17,500 person-days of fieldwork

85 person-years of fieldwork

130 people involved in the 7 censuses

This enormous undertaking could not have been possible without the hard work of the many people who have worked at BCI over the past 30 years. Congratulations to all involved!

November 9, 2010

Publications: Aug – Oct 2010

Baltzer, JL, and SC Thomas. 2010. A second dimension to the leaf economics spectrum predicts edaphic habitat association in a tropical forest. 2010. PloS ONE 5(10): e13163.
Full Text

Jones, FA, and LS Comita. 2010. Density-dependent pre-dispersal seed predation and fruit set in a tropical tree. Oikos 119(11): 1841-1847.

Malhado, ACM, GF Pires, and MH Costa. Cerrado conservation is essential to protect the Amazon rainforest. 2010. AMBIO 39(8): 580-584.

Ogden, FL, RF Stallard, H Elsenbeer, and J Hall. 2010. Panama Canal Watershed Experiment—Agua Salud Project. AWRA Summer Specialty Conference Proceedings, 30 Aug - 1 Sep.
Full Proceedings

Stallard, RF, FL Ogden, H Elsenbeer, and J Hall. 2010. Panama Canal Watershed Experiment—Agua Salud Project. Water Resources IMPACT 12(4): 17-20.

Weerasinghe, SM, C Chandrasekara, G Seneviratne, CVS Gunatilleke, and IAUN Gunatilleke. 2010. Growth variations of edaphic specialist species in a reciprocal pot experiment in Sri Lanka. Journal of the National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka 38(3): 171-179.

November 3, 2010

Students Study Secondary Forest Succession in Panama Canal Watershed

by Dylan Craven

Enmeshed in a mosaic of land uses, young secondary forests provide vital ecosystem services to the cities of Panama City, San Miguelito, and Colón, as well as to the Panama Canal. Under the auspices of the Agua Salud Project, a collaborative research project of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute sponsored by the HSBC Climate Partnership, a group of students from Yale and Harvard spent the summer investigating plant functional traits, functional diversity, and community assembly processes in the young secondary forests of the Panama Canal Watershed.

An extensive series of 0.10 ha transects (10 ha in total) has been established across this human-dominated landscape, where all trees, lianas, and palms have been inventoried yearly since 2008 (~450 tree species, ~150 liana species). Using demographic information from these transects, Dylan Craven (Yale F&ES), Grant Tolley (Yale F&ES), and Julian Moll-Rocek (Harvard) identified and sampled 56 of the most abundant tree species, which represent approximately 75% of basal area of transects between 0 and 20 years old. By looking at varying aspects of species-specific plant function – leaf morphology, physiology, and nutrient content – in combination with abundance and mortality data, these students hope to gain insights about how habitat filtering, niche differentiation, and functional diversity vary with secondary succession.

For more information, please contact Dylan Craven at

October 21, 2010

CTFS Awarded NSF Grant to Study Diversity and Forest Change

The US National Science Foundation’s Dimensions of Biodiversity initiative has awarded CTFS $631,640 over five years to study the taxonomic, genetic, and functional dimensions of tree diversity and their impact on forest structure and function. The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University will manage the grant, and the Chinese National Science Foundation will provide matching funds.

The research will combine long-term temperate and tropical forest studies across entire tree communities to parameterize models that incorporate functional and genetic variation among species to test predictions about current and future changes in forests. Integration of multiple dimensions of biodiversity will significantly increase understanding of how forests are structured‹a critical and necessary step toward predicting how these systems will respond to global change.

The project will involve many partners sites of the global CTFS-SIGEO network.


Dimensions IRCN: Diversity and Forest Change: Characterizing functional, phylogenetic, and genetic contributions to diversity gradients and dynamics in tree communities

Project Summary

Understanding diversity’s impact on forest structure and function: The project will bring together two existing forest research networks in the US and China to advance understanding of how taxonomic, functional, and genetic dimensions of diversity structure tree communities and affect their resilience to global change. Together these networks maintain 24 large-scale forest plots in tropical and temperate forests in Asia and the Americas, providing data on the demography, functional traits, phylogenetic relatedness, and environmental preferences of thousands of species. Through a series of symposia, analytical workshops, and international scientific exchanges, these data will be used to ask: (i) what functional traits underlie species demographics and distributions across environmental gradients, (ii) how functional traits and phylogenetic relatedness of communities link to forest function; and (iii) how functional traits and environmental tolerances vary among individuals within species.; and (iv) how gene flow contributes to genetic diversity at local and regional scales. By combining long-term temperate and tropical forest studies across entire tree communities, we will be able to parameterize models that incorporate knowledge about functional and genetic variation among species to test predictions about current and future changes in the forests.

Building capacity in biodiversity research
: The project will be implemented through a series of capacity-building and training initiatives that will expand science and enhance collaboration between the US and China. The strengthening of the network of forest research plots in Asia and the Americas will have long-term benefits for American and Chinese researchers examining the role of forests in a changing global environment. Through workshops and symposia focused on the relationships between taxonomic, functional, and genetic dimensions of biodiversity and ecosystem processes, we will engage approximately 100 students and early-career scientists over five years. An international scientific exchange program will enable 10 US students and early-career researchers to spend 3 months in collaborating institutions in China. Chinese scientists will have similar opportunities in the US through a parallel proposal to NSF-China. These scientists will be drawn from the US, China, and other developing countries in Asia and the Americas. In addition, the scientific workshops will result in the development of new analytical tools and data compilations that will be made openly available through the web.

October 18, 2010

Enumeration Progress at Harvard Forest

The census of woody stems within the 35-ha Harvard Forest plot began on 1 June 2010. Using standardized CTFS-SIGEO methodology, Dave Orwig and three 2-person crews measured, tagged, painted, and mapped every stem greater than 1 cm in diameter at 1.3 m. By 27 August, when vegetation sampling for the year ended, 29,908 stems had been tagged, mapped, and measured, representing approximately 13 hectares.

The 3 western columns were particularly dense, containing dense thickets of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia). Stem densities averaged 2,301/ha and ranged from 1,756 to 3,071/ha. All stems were entered twice into the temporary database during the summer, and Dave Orwig will continue to screen and edit all data for uploading to the database during autumn 2010. In addition, work will proceed with digitally mapping all stems contained on the 1,300 10 x 10 maps produced from the 13 ha of forest.

October 7, 2010

2010 Research Grants Program Recipients

CTFS is pleased to announce the 2010 Research Grants Program recipients. This year’s cycle attracted 58 proposals requesting more than USD $1,000,000. Out of this pool, 11 proposals were selected for full or partial funding. Thank you to all applicants for your interest in the CTFS network. The deadline for the next grant cycle is 1 April 2011. See our website for application details.

Click here to view the names of the recipients and their proposal titles.

2010 CTFS Research Grants Program Recipients

Lei Chen, “The role of density dependence in community assembly: Implications from adult tree pattern and seedling dynamics in both subtropical and tropical forest.” Gutianshan, China; BCI, Panama.

Neal Enrigh, “Understanding the population dynamics of Nageia motleyi (Podocarpaceae) in lowland tropical rainforests of South-east Asia.” Pasoh, Malaysia.

Gonçalo Ferraz and Cintia Cornelius, “Predicting occurrence of cavity-nesting birds from tree demographic data.” Manaus, Brazil.

David L. Gorchov, Melissa K. McCormick, Dennis F. Whigham, “Exotic Plant Invasion in Temperate Deciduous Forest: Patterns and Processes.” SERC, USA.

Steven W. Kembel, Jessica L. Green, “Quantifying the scaling of bacterial phyllosphere diversity: The role of space, environment, and host plant attributes.”
BCI, Panama.

Madhava Meegaskumbura and Suyama Meegaskumbura, “Determining microclimatic envelopes and monitoring populations of Sri Lankan Shrub-Frogs in Sinharaja 25 ha. plot to understand finer scale determinants of their distribution, reproduction and survival.” Sinharaja, Sri Lanka.

Eadaoin M.I. Quinn, “Does age-related crown thinning occur in canopy-dominant tropical trees?” BCI, Panama.

Siewe Siewe Siewe and Jacqueline Vadjunec, “Degradation and carbon stocks dynamics: An analysis of the anthropogenic impact on deforestation and degradation in the Korup National Park.” Korup, Cameroon.

Erin Spear, “Agents of change: Identifying phytopathogens and their contributions to tree diversity.” BCI, Panama.

Pimonrat Tiansawat, “Ecological significance of seed traits in the genus Macaranga.” Lambir, Malaysia.

October 1, 2010

CTFS-AA Program Assistant Appointed: Sara Lischynsky

We are pleased to announce that Sara Lischynsky has joined the Center for Tropical Forest Science-Arnold Arboretum (CTFS-AA) Asia Program to serve as Program Assistant.

Sara joins CTFS-AA following a position as Assistant to the Deans of Suffolk University’s College of Arts & Sciences, where she also pursued studies in graphic design. Originally from New York State, Sara earned her BA degree at Emerson College in Boston, studying publishing and communication.

She will be based at the CTFS office at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.

September 26, 2010

Pasoh Celebrates 25 Years of Research: 10-11 Nov 2010

2010 marks the 25th anniversary of the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) and the Pasoh 50-ha plot, a partnership between the Center for Tropical Forest Science-Arnold Arboretum Asia Program and FRIM. In commemoration of the anniversary, FRIM will host a symposium on 10-11 November 2010, highlighting the scientific findings that have resulted from 25 years of collaborative research at Pasoh.

For more information, please see the flier at:

September 22, 2010

Community Phylogenetics Workshop Held in Beijing

by Yanjun Du

The Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IBCAS) hosted CTFS-SIGEO partners in Beijing on 31 July - 6 August for a workshop on community phylogenetics. Nathan Swenson from Michigan State University gave a series of seminars on phylogenetic approaches to diversity, dispersion, and trait evolution. Xiangcheng Mi, Haibao Ren, Jiangshan Lai, Qiong Ding, and Jinlong Zhang led workshops on the application of R and Phylocom to phylogenetic research.

Fifty-five participants from 8 forest dynamics plots in the Chinese Forest Biodiversity Monitoring Network attended the workshop, representing IBCAS, the Institute of Microbiology CAS, South China Botanical Garden CAS, the Institute of Applied Ecology CAS, Wuhan Botanical Garden CAS, and Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden CAS.

September 16, 2010

University of Wyoming Ecosystem Services Field Course at Agua Salud

by Trey Crouch

A group of students and professors from the University of Wyoming’s Environmental and Natural Resources Department traveled to Panama at the end of July for a four-week ecosystem services field course. The group included seven students and professors Scott Miller and Fred Ogden, the latter one of four principal investigators on the Agua Salud Project. The course took advantage of the Agua Salud experimental landscape and study sites to provide the students with field and laboratory experience related to tropical forestry and hydrology and involve them in research on the connections between hydrology, geochemistry, and land cover.

PHOTO: (l-r) Brie Richardson, Nathalie Macsalka, Nibret Abebe, Aaron Rutledge, Bob Stallard, Ryan Anderson, Nathaniel Hadley Dike, and Scott Miller. By Trey Crouch.

The students participated in various hydrological activities, including two geophysical electrical tomography experiments, installation of shallow groundwater-monitoring wells, and collection and lab analysis of water samples taken from the various Agua Salud stream networks. They also participated in forestry fieldwork by taking crown and DBH measurements in the teak and secondary-growth catchments.

PHOTO: (l-r) Conducting the geophysical tomography tracer experiment in the native species plantation. By Trey Crouch.

September 1, 2010

Mapping Underway at Rabi, Gabon

Enumeration of the 25-ha Rabi plot in the Gamba Complex of Protected Areas in Southwest Gabon started in mid June 2010 under the direction of Gorky Villa. David Kenfack, CTFS-SIGEO Africa Program Coordinator, visited the plot in July and August to continue training and supervision of the two field teams, each of which consists of six dedicated Gabonese men who work in rotation to ensure continual mapping and tagging.

PHOTO: Left to right: Landry Tchignoumba, Arnaud Mboumba, Pierre Nicaise Guissouegou, Mourel Mouloungui, David Kenfack, Gauthier Moussavou, and Joel Mpira.

More than 1.5 hectares have been tagged and mapped, with an average of 314 trees (dbh ≥ 1 cm) per 20 x 20 m quadrat and 7,800 trees per hectare. Forty-six species and 288 individuals were recorded in the first 20 x 20 m quadrat, with Dichostemma glaucesens (Euphorbiaceae) comprising 29% of the stems. The plot includes several large individuals of the remarkable canopy tree Eurypetalum tesmannii (Fabaceae), which has a shruby habit and can have up to 74 stems.

PHOTO: Eurypetalum tesmannii. By Gorky Villa.

Click here for more photos from the Rabi plot.

August 25, 2010

Publications: Apr - Jul 2010

Bastien-Henri, S, A Park, M Ashton, and C Messier. 2010. Biomass distribution among tropical tree species grown under differing regional climates. Forest Ecology and Management 260(3): 403-410.

Chen, L, X Mi, LS Comita, L Zhang, H Ren, and K Ma. 2010. Community-level consequences of density dependence and habitat association in a subtropical broad-leaved forest. Ecology Letters 13(6): 695-704.

Comita, LS, HC Muller-Landau, S Aguilar, and SP Hubbell. 2010. Asymmetric density dependence shapes species abundances in a tropical tree community. Science 329: 330-332.
Abstract & PDF

DeFries, RS, T Rudel, M Uriarte, and M Hansen. 2010. Deforestation driven by urban population growth and agricultural trade in the twenty-first century. Nature Geoscience 3: 178-181.

DeWalt, SJ, SA Schnitzer, J Chave, F Bongers, RJ Burnham, Z Cai, G Chuyong, DB Clark, CEN Ewango, JJ Gerwing, E Gortaire, T Hart, G Ibarra-Manriquez, K Ickes, D Kenfack, MJ Macia, JR Makana, M Martinez-Ramos, Jo Mascaro, S Moses, HC Muller-Landau, MPE Parren, N Parthasarathy, DR Perez-Salicrup, FE Putz, H Romero-Saltos, and D Thomas. 2010. Annual rainfall and seasonality predict pan-tropical patterns of liana density and basal area. Biotropica 42(3): 309-317.

Eichhorn, MP, R Nilus, SG Compton, SE Hartley, and DFRP Burslem. 2010. Herbivory of tropical rain forest tree seedlings correlates with future mortality. Ecology 91(4): 1092-1101.

Ingwell, LL, SJ Wright, KK Becklund, SP Hubbell, and SA Schnitzer. 2010. The impact of lianas on 10 years of tree growth and mortality on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Journal of Ecology 98(4): 879-887.

Kraft, NJB and DD Ackerly. 2010. Functional trait and phylogenetic tests of community assembly across spatial scales in an Amazonian forest. Ecological Monographs 80(3): 401-422.

Larjavaara, M. 2010. Maintenance cost, toppling risk and size of trees in a self-thinning stand. Journal of Theoretical Biology 265: 63-67.
Abstract & PDF

Larjavaara, M and HC Muller-Landau. 2010. Rethinking the value of high wood density. Functional Ecology 24(4): 701-705.

Noumi, VN, L Zapfack, B Sonke, G Achoundong, and OC Kengne. 2010. Distribution et richesse taxonomiques des épiphytes de quelques phorophytes au Parc national de Korup (Cameroun). International Journal of Environmental Studies 67:1: 51-61.

Park, A, M van Breugel, MS Ashton, M Wishnie, E Mariscal, J Deago, D Ibarra, N Cedeno, JS Hall. 2010. Local and regional environmental variation influences the growth of tropical trees in selection trials in the Republic of Panama. Forest Ecology and Management 260(1): 12-21.

Russo, SE, WL Cannon, C Elowsky, S Tan, and SJ Davies. 2010. Variation in leaf stomatal traits of 28 tree species in relation to gas exchange along an edaphic gradient in a Bornean rain forest. American Journal of Botany 97(7): 1109-1120.

Schnitzer, SA and WP Carson. 2010. Lianas suppress tree regeneration and diversity in treefall gaps. Ecology Letters 13(7): 849-857.

Uriarte, M, EM Bruna, P Rubim, M Anciaes, and I Jonckheere. 2010. Effects of forest fragmentation on the seedling recruitment of a tropical herb: assessing seed vs. safe-site limitation. Ecology 91(5): 1317-1328.

Wang, X, T Wiegand, Z Hao, B Li, J Ye, and F Lin. 2010. Species associations in an old-growth temperate forest in north-eastern China. Journal of Ecology 98(3): 674-686.

Wright, SJ. 2010. The future of tropical forests. 2010. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1195: 1–27.

Zuidema, PA, T Yamada, HJ During, A Itoh, T Yamakura, T Ohkubo, M Kanzaki, S Tan, and PS Ashton. 2010. Recruitment subsidies support tree subpopulations in non-preferred tropical forest habitats. Journal of Ecology 98(3): 636-644.

August 5, 2010

Videos of Harvard Talks Now Online

Videos of the presentations at the Arnold Arboretum-CTFS Harvard Plant Biology Symposium in April are now available online for viewing at

Harvard University's Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (OEB) in partnership with the CTFS-Arnold Arboretum (CTFS-AA) program hosted the 6th Annual Harvard Plant Biology Symposium. This year's theme was "Trees and the Global Environment." The symposium was supported by CTFS-AA, OEB, and the HSBC Climate Partnership.

The talks represented both empirical and modeling/theory perspectives from diverse disciplines in plant science and resource economics. Presentations ranged from the functional responses of individual trees to changing environmental conditions all the way up to ecosystem and landscape-scale responses. For more information, please visit:

July 20, 2010

Harvard Forest Plot Underway

by David A. Orwig

Harvard Forest researchers, with the assistance of scientists from CTFS-SIGEO, began the census of woody stems on June 1, 2010. The 35-ha plot is dominated by eastern hemlock and northern hardwood species and will make an excellent comparison with several other hardwood plots in North America and China at similar latitudes.

To date, over 13,000 stems have been tagged, mapped, and measured, representing approximately 4.5 hectares. Some of the quadrats were particularly dense, containing dense thickets of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia). Over the course of the summer, Forest Ecologist David Orwig and six crew members will continue sampling in the western portion of the plot.

The Harvard Forest plot forms part of a global array of large-scale plots established by CTFS-SIGEO, which recently expanded sampling efforts into temperate forests to explore ecosystem processes beyond population dynamics and biodiversity. The geography and size of the plot (500 m x 700 m) was designed to include a continuous, expansive, and varied natural forest landscape that will yield opportunities for the study of forest dynamics and demography while capturing a large amount of existing science infrastructure (e.g., eddy flux towers, gauged sections of a small watershed, existing smaller permanent plots) that will enable the integrated study of ecosystem processes (e.g., biogeochemistry, hydrology, carbon dynamics) and forest dynamics. Thus the resulting data will integrate well with ongoing NSF-funded LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) and NEON (National Ecological Observatory Network) studies.

July 13, 2010

First census of Yosemite 25-ha plot completed

On Friday July 9, 2010, CTFS-SIGEO partners finished the first census of the 25-ha plot located in Yosemite National Park. Seven temperate plots, at varying stages of enumeration, are now in place in North America.

Field work started last year during the last two weeks of June, when more than 13,000 individual trees in approximately 10 ha were censused. The census of the second half of the plot required about the same number of fieldwork hours as the first.

The Yosemite Forest Dynamics Plot is located near Crane Flat in Yosemite National Park, with white fir (Abies concolor), sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana), and Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) making up most of the species. The principal investigators are Drs. James Lutz and Andrew Larson.

PHOTOS: By Jim Lutz

June 26, 2010

Ceremony Opens PNG Research Station

On 24 May 2010, CTFS joined partners to celebrate the opening of the Swire Research Station, which supports field activities related to the 50-ha CTFS plot underway in Wanang, Papua New Guinea.

Bill Rothery, Chairman of John Swire & Sons Pty Steamships, which has contributed USD 250,000 to the project, participated in the celebration along with partners from the New Guinea Binatang Research Center, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, the Smithsonian Institution, the University of Minnesota, and PNG officials.

Download clippings of local PNG newspaper coverage of the event.

June 10, 2010

Planting Trees to Celebrate World Environment Day 2010

by Jefferson Hall

The headlines are not good. A massive oil spill continues to foul the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and negotiations to curb the increase of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere are in disarray. However, on World Environment Day 2010, we remembered the old environmental movement call to action “Think Globally, Act Locally.”

Photo: HSBC volunteers in Panama joined STRI and the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) on World Environment Day (5 June) to plant 2,500 trees over 2 hectares of land in Soberania National Park, Panama. HSBC-Panama CEO Ernesto Fernandes (center) and Arturo Cerezo (green shirt) from ACP were among the volunteers. Photo by Gian Montufar, STRI.

Despite the headlines and daunting environmental challenges the world faces, we need to remember that global action to address environmental problems starts with individuals and local groups. So on World Environment Day, we chose to do our part for the environment by planting trees. Our partners in the effort were 125 HSBC Bank employees in Panama.

As part of the Agua Salud Project—an ecosystem services research partnership between the Panama Canal Authority, the National Environmental Authority of Panama, HSBC Bank, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)—we enjoyed a day outdoors, doing something positive for the environment. To help control the spread of aggressive invasive canal grass (Saccharum spontaneum) and restore tropical forest within the boundaries of Soberania National Park, we planted 2,500 trees of native species over 2 hectares of land.

Will it work? No one can tell for sure, but in a six-year-old forest planted by STRI’s PRORENA project, we’ve seen the return of countless species of birds, species of primates, and even footprints of a very large cat believed to be a Jaguar—none of which would be there without the forest.

May 17, 2010

Coordinator of Neotropical Program Appointed: Dr. Tania Brenes Arguedas

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Tania Brenes Arguedas has joined the Center for Tropical Forest Science-Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatory (CTFS-SIGEO) to coordinate research and training activities for the Neotropical Program.

Tania joins CTFS-SIGEO following a post-doctoral fellowship at STRI, where she investigated the effects of herbivores, pathogens, drought, and light on tree distributions across the Isthmus of Panama. Tania is originally from Costa Rica. She did her BSc degree at the University of Costa Rica and her PhD at the University of Utah, where she focused on the role of biotic and abiotic factors in shaping the defensive adaptations of the genus Inga.

Tania's experience working in Latin America and studying neotropical forests will help enhance the expanding CTFS-SIGEO program in the region. She is based at the CTFS-SIGEO office in Panama.

May 11, 2010

HIPPNET: CTFS Partner in Hawai‘i

In a recent article for UCLA’s Center for Tropical Research, Lawren Sack describes the establishment of the Hawai‘i Permanent Plot Network (HIPPNET) and discusses the kinds of critical forest research the project facilitates.

Click here to read Lawren's article and learn about the important work that CTFS partners are doing in Hawai‘i.

Photo by Susan Cordell: Metrosideros polymorpha, Laupahoehoe.

Photo by Susan Cordell: Diospyros sandwicensism, Palamanui.

May 7, 2010

Harvard Symposium Focuses on Trees and the Global Environment

Last week, the 6th Annual Harvard Plant Biology Symposium drew a crowd of several hundred people to hear (in Cambridge and via the Web) a multidisciplinary group of researchers present some of today’s most advanced science and social science related to trees and the global environment.

The symposium was co-organized and hosted by the Harvard University Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and CTFS-Arnold Arboretum with support from the HSBC Climate Partnership. See Alvin Powell’s article in the Harvard Gazette for a summary of the symposium. Videos of the talks are available online for viewing at

April 14, 2010

CTFS-Arnold Arboretum Co-Hosts 6th Annual Harvard Plant Biology Symposium on 29-30 April

Harvard University's Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (OEB) in partnership with the CTFS-Arnold Arboretum Program will host the 6th Annual Harvard Plant Biology Symposium. This year’s theme is "Trees and the Global Environment.” The symposium is supported by CTFS-AA, OEB, and the HSBC Climate Partnership.

Live Webcast of Harvard PBI Symposium: 29 & 30 April

Speakers represent both empirical and modeling/theory perspectives and come from diverse disciplines in plant science and resource economics. Presentations will range from the functional responses of individual trees to changing environmental conditions all the way up to ecosystem and landscape-scale responses. Poster presentations will showcase important research being done on plants at the Arnold Arboretum and at Harvard more broadly. For more information, visit:

Program: Trees and the Global Environment


Eva Pell, Smithsonian Institution
Introductory Comments

Stephen Pacala, Princeton University
Scaling from physiology to the globe in models of forest dynamics

Deborah Clark, University of Missouri-St. Louis / OTS
Tropical forests in a changing world: Profound global implications and the evolving evidence

Steven Wofsy, Harvard University
Do forests really sequester carbon: A critical reassessment based on case studies spanning the climate spectrum

Peter Reich, University of Minnesota
Linking plant traits, community dynamics, and ecosystems processes across scales: Why might this matter in a changing world?

Tom Bruns
, University of California, Berkeley
Dispersal of ectomycorrhizal fungi through space and time during post-fire regeneration of pine forests

David Neale, University of California, Davis
Development and application of genomic-based tools to nanage forest tree populations in response to climate change

Anna Sala, University of Montana
Physiological mechanisms of drought-induced tree mortality: There is much to learn


Jeffrey Vincent
, Duke University
Valuing changes in tropical rainforests

Gregory Asner,
Carnegie Institution for Science / Stanford University
Chemical phylogeny and remote sensing of tropical canopies

Jason McLachlan, University of Notre Dame
Anticipating the combined impact of forest fragmentation and climate-driven range shifts on forest genetics

Helene Muller-Landau, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
The tolerance-fecundity tradeoff and the maintenance of seed size diversity in variable and changing environments

Richard Condit, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Impact of environment and species input on diversity in stochastic community models and Center for Tropical Forest Science plots

Yadvinder Malhi
, Oxford University
The productivity and carbon cycle of lowland and montane tropical forests in Amazonia

Daniel Nepstad, Woods Hole Research Center
Managing the Amazon forest dieback

April 12, 2010

Publications: Jan - Mar 2010

Craft, KJ, SU Pauls, K Darrow, SE Miller, PDN Hebert, LE Helgen, V Novotny, and GD Weiblen. 2010. Population genetics of ecological communities with DNA barcodes: An example from New Guinea Lepidoptera. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107(11): 5041-5046.

Itoh, A, T Ohkubo, S Nanami, S Tan, T Yamakura. 2010. Comparison of statistical tests for habitat associations in tropical forests: A case study of sympatric dipterocarp trees in a Bornean forest. Forest Ecology and Management 259: 323–332.

McMahon, SM, GG Parker, and DR Miller. 2010. Evidence for a recent increase in forest growth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107(8): 3611-3615.
Abstract & PDF

Muller-Landau, HC. The tolerance-fecundity trade-off and the maintenance of diversity in seed size. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107(9): 4242-4247.

Zimmermann, A, B Zimmermann, and H Elsenbeer. 2009. Rainfall redistribution in a tropical forest: Spatial and temporal patterns. Water Resources Research 45, W11413, doi:10.1029/2008WR007470.

Zimmermann, B, A Zimmermann, RM Lark, and H Elsenbeer. 2010. Sampling procedures for throughfall monitoring: A simulation study. Water Resources Research 46, W01503, doi:10.1029/2009WR007776.

March 26, 2010

Coordinator of CTFS/SIGEO-TEAM Initiative Appointed: Dr. Patrick Jansen

We are very pleased to announce that Dr. Patrick Jansen has recently joined the Center for Tropical Forest Science-Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatory (CTFS-SIGEO) to coordinate research activities for the CTFS-SIGEO collaboration with Conservation International’s Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring Network (TEAM). The partnership between CTFS-SIGEO and TEAM will expand the long-term monitoring of biodiverse tropical forests by implementing a program of vertebrate and climate monitoring.

Patrick comes to CTFS-SIGEO from a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He received his BSc and MSc from Wageningen Agricultural University and his PhD from Wageningen University. His expertise in the study of plant-animal interactions, particularly seed dispersal and seed predation, and his experience with camera trapping of terrestrial vertebrates will complement and enhance the growing CTFS-SIGEO research program.

March 17, 2010

HSBC Climate Partnership yields initial research findings

Researchers from around the world met last week at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama to present mid-term research results from the HSBC Climate Partnership, a five-year initiative to identify and respond to the impacts of climate change. The program is supported financially by HSBC and involves a global team of bank employees—“climate champions”—in vital forest research.

The following content from the conference is available online:

Videos of conference presentations
Conference program
The video Forests and Climate Change: A Global Investigation

The first-ever research program of its kind has so far:
• Found rapid increases in tree growth in the forest around the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Maryland, USA, a finding that corresponds to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and longer growing seasons, published in PNAS.
• Proposed a novel biodiversity theory relating stress and seed-size published in PNAS.
• Examined the effects a changing climate in forests is having on white-tailed deer, mice and even mosquitoes.
• Addressed the lack of a reliable method for estimating the carbon storage capability of secondary forests on a landscape scale by assessing how measurements from airborne LiDAR and other remote sensing technologies relate to ground-based measurements.
• Reviewed how human disturbance changes the way forests take up carbon in diverse environments.

Researchers working in broadleaf-forest plots near Oxford, UK, Atlantic rainforests in southern Brazil, and warm-temperate forests near Gutianshan Nature Reserve in China, as well as the SERC site in Maryland, have been putting HSBC employees to work. At Oxford, for example, data collected indicates that changes in forest structure have impacted moth populations.

Stuart Davies, director of the Smithsonian and Harvard’s Center for Tropical Forest Science, says, “We know that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has shot up from 280 to 385 parts per million since the 1850s as a result of human activities like the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. The degree to which atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to increase depends, in part, on how trees respond to climate and atmospheric change—whether forests end up storing more or less carbon. This is what the HSBC Climate Partnership research is trying to establish.”

Dan Bebber, head of climate change research at Earthwatch Institute, says, “Human activities are undeniably changing the world’s climate, but the effects of that change on forest ecosystems and the role that forests play in providing ecosystem services such as carbon storage are poorly understood. The research being supported by funding and climate champions from HSBC will help to increase our knowledge of forests, and how they can be wisely managed for the future. This unique NGO-corporate partnership is an exemplary model of how individuals and businesses can make a difference.”

STRI staff scientist Helene Muller-Landau said: “The HSBC Climate Champions working with us to measure trees understand how to take stock of carbon balances. Trees take up carbon as they grow. As trees die and decompose, they release carbon. The balance of carbon flows in and out of the forest determines whether the total forest carbon stock increases or decreases over time.”

“Dangerous and irreversible changes that threaten life-support systems are likely when atmospheric carbon levels reach 550 ppm, if not sooner,” stressed Yavinder Malhi, research scientist from Oxford University. “It’s our job to engage people in science in a way that balances keeping things simple while showing that forests, as living systems, may be really complicated, taking up carbon under some conditions and giving off carbon under other conditions.”

Research in Peru reveals how forest carbon budgets change with temperature from cooler mountainous sites to warmer lowland sites. Muller-Landau and Malhi agree that because different tree species respond differently to changing temperatures and rainfall regimes, some species will thrive while others will decline, resulting in changes in forest tree-species composition and probably in carbon stocks.

Another important topic of discussion at the conference was the HSBC-sponsored Panama Canal Watershed Experiment, nicknamed the Agua Salud Project. This huge experiment aims to determine how different land uses—pasture, plantations of native trees and teak, and mature forest—affect carbon storage, water flow, and biodiversity on the narrow Isthmus of Panama, where two great biodiversity hotspots meet. STRI Director Eldredge Bermingham noted “that locating this experiment on the banks of the Panama Canal aims to focus global attention on the ecosystem services that forests provide this critical commercial waterway.”

March 4, 2010

Third African Forest Dynamics Plot Underway

A new 25-ha forest dynamics plot is being established in mature forest in the Rabi Protected Area in the Gamba Complex of protected areas in southwestern Gabon. The plot follows CTFS protocols and adds a third site to the existing African plots at Ituri (Congo) and Korup (Cameroon). Studies by the Smithsonian over the last decade have shown the Gamba Complex area, which encompasses the Rabi plot, to be extremely biodiverse. The plot is representative of the Guineo-Congolian rainforest that abounds in the Rabi landscape.

The project is part of the Gabon Biodiversity Program and represents a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatory (SIGEO), Smithsonian National Zoological Park Conservation Biology Institute and Center for Conservation, Education and Sustainability, Shell Gabon, the Government of Gabon, CTFS and other stakeholders. The plot will provide baseline data for studies of forest regeneration, carbon dynamics, and biodiversity. In addition, the plot affords the opportunity to help build scientific and resource-management capacity in the region. Late in 2009, researchers completed surveying 25-ha of the plot. Tree tagging, mapping, and identification will begin this year. For more information, please contact Alfonso Alonso or Francisco Dallmeier.

Photo by Gorky Villa

February 23, 2010

CTFS-SIGEO Database Workshop in Peoria, Illinois

Members of the North America and Africa Programs of the Center for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS) - Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatory (SIGEO) met at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, this past week, 15-18 February, 2010, for a workshop on database management.

The workshop was hosted by Dr. Steven Dolins, Professor of Computer Science at Bradley. In partnership with Rick and Suzanne, Steven and his students have taken a lead role in developing the CTFS-SIGEO database system. Rick Condit and Suzanne Lao (STRI) designed and led the training activities. They were ably assisted by Mark Overholt, a computer science graduate from Bradley who has recently joined CTFS-SIGEO to help develop the database programs for the network.

This workshop was the 5th in a series of CTFS-SIGEO database workshops designed to train network members in the use of a global standardized database for all 3.5 million trees, 11 million records, and 8,000 species in the 34 plots of the network. By the end of the week, all participants were feeling very "normalized."

Back Row (L-R): Rick Condit, Steven Dolins, Jim Lutz (Yosemite, Wind River) Middle: Duncan Thomas (Korup), Sean McMahon (Maryland), Sean Thomas (Ontario), Daniel Johnson (Indiana), Mark Overholt Front: David Kenfack (Korup), Stuart Davies, Juniper Sundance (Wisconsin), Norm Bourg (Virginia), Suzanne Lao.

February 16, 2010

Coordinator of Africa Program Appointed: Dr. David Kenfack

We are pleased to announce that Dr. David Kenfack has recently joined the Center for Tropical Forest Science-Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatory (CTFS-SIGEO) to coordinate research and training activities for the Africa program.

David is no stranger to CTFS. In 1996, he led the establishment of the Korup 50-hectare plot in Cameroon. He then went on to PhD studies at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, where he worked on the systematics and ecology of Carapa (Meliaceae), describing a series of species new to science. Following the completion of his PhD in 2008, he spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

In addition to taxonomic expertise on the flora of Central and West Africa, David has extensive experience in tropical forest ecology and data management. During his career, he has assembled botanical collections and carried out forest inventories in more than 10 tropical countries.

David will be based at the CTFS office at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.

January 22, 2010

Arnold Arboretum’s Robert Cook retires after 21 years

Last month, Robert E. Cook retired as director of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University after having led the institution for over two decades. The Arnold Arboretum’s involvement with CTFS goes back to the early 1980s when Steve Hubbell and Peter Ashton (then director of the Arboretum) agreed to replicate the BCI plot in Malaysia. Today the CTFS network comprises 34 plots around the world and represents a rich, exemplary tradition of collaborative science.

Bob Cook has played a significant role in sustaining and advancing CTFS research and training, particularly in tropical Asia. Under his directorship in 2003, the Arboretum joined the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in supporting CTFS’s core Asian research. That agreement was renewed in 2007 with the Arboretum furthering its commitment to CTFS research in Asia.

Bob has also been instrumental in involving CTFS in undergraduate and graduate education at Harvard and abroad. Through its annual Biodiversity of Borneo summer course and International Field Biology Course, CTFS exposes students to the remarkable biodiversity of the Asian tropics and introduces them to the complexities of conservation and forest management.

Plant science has benefited greatly from Bob’s long career in research and academic administration. In 1989, he came to the Arnold Arboretum from Cornell University, where he had been the director of Cornell Plantations and an associate professor of ecology and systematics. Prior to that he was an associate professor at Harvard. We appreciate his support and leadership over many years and wish him the very best in retirement.

January 8, 2010

Publications: Dec 2009

To obtain a PDF of an article, please email Suzanne Lao at

Baltzer, JL, DM Gregoire, S Bunyavejchewin, NSM Noor, and SJ Davies. 2009. Coordination of foliar and wood anatomical traits contributes to tropical tree distributions and productivity along the Malay-Thai peninsula. American Journal of Botany 96(12): 2214-23.

Dent, DH and SJ Wright. 2009. The future of tropical species in secondary forests: A quantitative review. Biological Conservation 142(12): 2833-43.

Honorio Coronado, EN, TR Baker, OL Phillips, NCA. Pitman, RT Pennington, R Vasquez Martinez, A Monteagudo, H Mogollon, N Davila Cardozo, M Rios, R. Garcia-Villacorta, E Valderrama, M Ahuite, I Huamantupa, DA Neill, WF Laurance, HEM Nascimento, SS de Almeida, TJ Killeen, L Arroyo, P Nunez, and Freitas Alvarado. 2009. Multi-scale comparisons of tree composition in Amazonian terra firme forests. Biogeosciences 6(11): 2719-31.

Nock, CA, D Geihofer, M Grabner, PJ Baker, S Bunyavejchewin, and Peter Hietz. 2009. Wood density and its radial variation in six canopy tree species differing in shade-tolerance in western Thailand. Annals of Botany 104: 297–306.
Abstract & PDF