December 16, 2015

New field guide describing the lianas of Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama

ForestGEO presents a new field guide, Lianas y Enredaderas de la Isla de Barro Colorado, Panamá (Lianas and Vines of Barro Colorado Island, Panama) published by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). The Spanish-language field guide is written by STRI’s Rolando Pérez, Salomón Aguilar, Nefertaris Daguerre, and Andrés Hernández, and STRI Research Associate Stefan Schnitzer with Marquette University.

The field book is a guide to identifying 124 common species of lianas and vines with descriptions, uses, and mapped distributions in the tropical forest of Barro Colorado Island (BCI) Forest Dynamics PlotBCI is a major focus of intensive research on lowland tropical moist forest and its flora is better known than any comparably sized site in the world. BCI has almost 1,500 vascular plant species, including 276 species of lianas and vines

Lianas and vines are difficult to track and measure across ForestGEO plots, including BCI. Both individuals and species are difficult to identify as they spiral up into the tree canopy. Vine and woody climbing lianas can inhibit the growth of tropical trees due to competition for light and other resources. However, the biology and ecological roles of these climbing plants is scarcely known. Therefore, the field book serves as an invaluable resource for studying the ecological roles of lianas and vines in tropical forests, and includes vibrant, color photographs of leaves, flowers, fruits, and vines, as well as a pictorial glossary of botanical terms.

For more information on the field book, click here for the announcement by STRI.

(from left to right) Leaves, fruits, flowers, ribs, and vines of Abuta racemosa (p.189) and Bignonia aequinoctialis (p. 55). Photos by Rolando Pérez.

Pérez, Rolando, Stefan Schnitzer, Salomón Aguilar, Nefertaris Daguerre, and Andrés Hernández. 2015. Lianas y Enredaderas de la Isla de Barro Colorado, Panamá. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Center for Tropical Forest Science: Panama City, Panama.

November 3, 2015

CTFS - ForestGEO Africa Database Workshop and Symposium in Washington, D.C.

CTFS – ForestGEO hosted its Africa database training workshop last week in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The 10-day workshop was generously supported by Chris Davidson. David Kenfack, CTFS – ForestGEO Africa Program Coordinator, and Suzanne Lao, CTFS - ForestGEO Database Manager, ran the workshop for five of our African forest dynamics plots partners. For most participants, this was their first time traveling to the United States, which provided an opportunity for the research team to meet and work together in person.

From left to right: Paul Musili (Mpala, Kenya), Pulcherie Bissiengou (Rabi, Gabon), Alexander Mengnjo (Korup, Cameroon), David Kenfack (Korup, Cameroon; Mpala, Kenya; Ngel Nyaki, Nigeria) Amani Ngoma (Ituri, Rep. of Congo), Hazel Chapman (Ngel Nyaki, Nigeria), and Suzanne Lao. 
At the workshop, participants dove into learning data entry techniques through the CTFS database system.  The goal of the training workshop was to form capacity within each of the respective forest dynamics plot for managing and utilizing forest plot data. The participants learned numerous concepts from utilizing Structured Query Language (SQL) commands with sample data to creating and digitizing maps in R. The participants represented the forest plots in Gabon, Kenya, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria.  

From left to right: Pulcherie Bissiengou, Amani Ngoma, Paul Musili, and Suzanne Lao hard at work.
On October 21st, CTFS – ForestGEO held a symposium at the museum, “Plant Systematics and the ForestGEO Network in Africa,” geared towards highlighting the workshop participants and their research. David Kenfack introduced the African forest dynamics plots and some of the plant systematics challenges we face in central Africa. Research talks followed by Pulcherie Bissiengou, Rabi forest plot in Gabon and the National Herbarium of Gabon, and Paul Musili, Mpala forest plot in Kenya and the National Museums of Kenya. Pulcherie discussed her recent dissertation work on the systematics, evolution, and historical biogeography of Ochnaceae. Paul Musili discussed systematic studies in Schoenus L. (Schoeneae, Cyperaceae) sedges in Kenya. The symposium concluded with David discussing the importance of long-distance dispersal for the biogeography of the transatlantic tree genus (Meliaceae, Sapindales). 

Paul Musili, Systematic studies in sedges Schoenus L. (Schoeneae, Cyperaceae).
The workshop concluded with an opportunity for the participants to work on their forest plot data in the CTFS database and a chance to explore the city of Washington, D.C. before departing. A big thanks to everyone who participated, and CTFS - ForestGEO looks forward to the continual support of ongoing projects and progress in the African plots!

October 6, 2015

CTFS - ForestGEO session at 100th-annual ESA meeting in Baltimore, MD

CTFS – ForestGEO recently hosted a session on Dimensions of Forest Diversity at the 100th annual Ecological Society of America (ESA) meeting in Baltimore, MD. Scientists presented some of the latest research coming out of the annual Dimensions of Biodiversity workshop between CTFS – ForestGEO and the Chinese Forest Biodiversity Monitoring Network. Thank you to all of the speakers and guests that attended!

The session began with an introduction by Stuart Davies, the Director of CTFS-ForestGEO, followed by ten presentations by CTFS - ForestGEO researchers. The session focused on the functional, phylogenetic, and genetic dimensions of forest diversity and change. Specifically, the presenters discussed how forests face multiple pressures from shifts in temperature and precipitation to deforestation and degradation associated with global climate change. For example, Andy Jones, Assistant Professor at Oregon State University, discussed species’ genetic responses to seasonal droughts in tropical forests and how results can inform future changes we face with upcoming El Niño events.

Stuart J. Davies, the Director of CTFS – ForestGEO, introducing the session. Photo by Maofang Luo.
Lei Chen, The cumulative effect of phylogenetic relatedness on the assembly of forest tree neighborhoods. Photo by Maofang Luo.
Yanjun Du, Intraspecific and phylogenetic density-dependent recruitment in a subtropical evergreen forest. Photo by Maofang Luo.
A poster session followed suit in the exhibit hall that included a poster by Kristina Anderson-Teixeira, leader of the Ecosystems and Climate Initiative, about global change effects on forests worldwide. If you attended ESA, we hope you had a chance to stop by our ForestGEO and MarineGEO exhibitor table! 

Kristin Powell (ForestGEO; left) and Maria Murray (MarineGEO; right) at the Smithsonian Global Earth Observatories exhibitor table.

The day ended with a final rendezvous at a local restaurant in Baltimore that celebrated the success of the session with CTFS – ForestGEO researchers and affiliates. Another big thank you to everyone who participated and attended. CTFS - ForestGEO looks forward to future sessions at ESA!

August 25, 2015

New field book features CTFS - ForestGEO plot in Yasuni, Ecuador

CTFS – ForestGEO, Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador (PUCE), and Dinamica del bosque de Yasuni present a new book, Árboles emblemáticos de Yasuní: 337 especies (Yasuni emblematic trees: 337 species), written by Alvaro J. Perez, Consuelo Hernandez, Hugo Romero-Saltos, and Renato Valencia, published by Herbario QCA.

The book is a field guide that displays morphological descriptions, uses, distribution, phenology, demographics, and accumulated carbon for 337 of the species in Yasuni National Park (314 species of trees, 22 species of palms, and one tree fern). 

In 1995, CTFS – ForestGEO helped establish the Yasuni Forest Dynamics Plot in Yasuni National Park, Ecuador in association with PUCE and the University of Aarhus in Denmark. This region is one of the greatest biodiversity hotspots on the planet with nearly 300,000 individual trees and 1100 species tagged in the plot. 
From left to right: Milton Pabón, Gabriel Grefa, Renato Valencia, and Álvaro Pérez conducting field research in the Yasuni Forest Dynamics Plot
Principal Investigator of the Yasuni plot, Renato Valencia, led a data-collection team for two decades to develop and research the ecology of 337 of the species at Yasuni. The book includes color photographs of leaves, flowers, fruits, and trees to encourage the development of future research and conservation strategies in one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world. See below for examples of the photography taken in Yasuni. 
Mayna odorata, an understory tree that is used for crossbars in residential structure in the area as well as oil in the fruit (pp.28 from Árboles emblemáticos de Yasuní: 337 especies)

Solanum grandiflorum; Photo taken by Renato Valencia

July 29, 2015

Annual workshop at the pioneer forest plot: CTFS - ForestGEO partners in Panama

CTFS - ForestGEO wrapped up its fifth, annual Dimensions of Biodiversity data-analysis workshop in Gamboa, Panama—home of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Thanks to all 57 participants from 20 countries around the network,  CTFS - ForestGEO had another productive year in forest research!

Workshop participants in Gamboa, Panama
Workshop priorities followed suit from previous years: to bring a global network to a local place to foster research and scientific collaborations among the CTFS – ForestGEO members. Every workshop is an opportunity to explore the latest research ideas with colleagues and meet new network researchers in person.

The workshop is an ongoing collaboration between CTFS – ForestGEO and the Chinese Forest Biodiversity Monitoring Network with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The National Science Foundation has provided financial support for the workshops since the summer of 2011.

At the workshop, participants hunkered down on forest plot analyses focused on biomass and carbon storage, gradients of diversity, time-series analyses of forest dynamics, and much more. Breaks from data analyses and computer screens ensued throughout the day as participants heard scientific presentations and provided feedback on forest research happening around the global network.  With 57 forest scientists in one room, there was no lack of expertise! Local Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute scientists also joined the discussions and presented talks on the history of Panama and the immense amount of research occurring in tropical, Panamanian ecosystems. 

Gathering on Day 1!

Tony Coates revealing the history of Panama (photo courtesy C. Chang-Yang)
Early inspiration for questions about forest dynamics came from a field trip to the CTFS – ForestGEO pioneer plot, Barro Colorado Island (BCI). An 8 AM boat ride through the Panama Canal brought the participants to BCI, where they all climbed to the first of the now 63 forest dynamics plots in the CTFS – ForestGEO network.  Everyone had a chance to get a glimpse  of the 302 tree species in the plot. Back at the workshop hotel site,  the BCI plant taxonomy guru and leader of the eighth BCI forest census, Rolando Pérez, walked everyone through the history and species of the local area on a guided natural-history tour of Panama’s diverse plant and animal life. Gamboa, Panama certainly provided an appropriate backdrop for a forest-studies workshop.

Peter Umunay (works with Ituri, Dem. Rep. of Congo forest plot) at BCI

Learning about the BCI plot species (photo courtesy S. Mattson)
The workshop ended with a full day of scientific presentations. All participants shared their hot-off-the-press research findings that they discovered within the two-week workshop and received feedback and ideas about how to keep their research projects moving forward.

A final rendezvous at the butterfly garden celebrated the success of the fifth Dimensions of Biodiversity workshop. A big thanks to everyone who participated, and CTFS - ForestGEO looks forward to hearing about your ongoing research projects!

Goodbye's at the Rainforest Resort's Butterfly House in Gamboa, Panama (photo courtesy C. Chang-Yang)
See a slideshow of more workshop photos below:

Created with flickr slideshow.

January 7, 2015

Preparations for the TY Danjuma supported Nigerian plot are continuing as scheduled

Forest biodiversity and conservation research in Nigeria has received a major boost with the donation by T.Y. Danjuma to the Nigerian Montane Forest Project (NMFP) for the establishment of a long-term, large-scale forest research plot at Ngel Nyaki Forest Reserve on the Mambilla Plateau in Taraba State. The Ngel Nyaki plot will be the first CTFS-ForestGEO plot in Nigeria and only the fifth in the entire African continent.

The University of Canterbury NMFP, directed by Associate Professor Hazel Chapman, operates a teaching and research facility located on the edge of Ngel Nyaki forest, a hotspot of natural diversity. The NMFP works with Taraba State Forestry to protect the forest.

The field station, which has been operating for eight years, serves as a research laboratory and teaching center, with accommodation for scientists and students. Masters and PhD level students from Nigerian universities and institutions, as well as University of Canterbury students, undertake research within the reserve.
Associate Professor Chapman says the research is assisting conservation in Nigeria in critical ways.“The focus of the research carried out by the NMFP is aimed towards the conservation, restoration and management of these unique forests and understanding the services provided by the plants and animals in them. It is vitally important research, because Nigeria has already lost most of its primary forests and therefore the potential to benefit from them.”

Current research projects include understanding pollination networks, seed dispersal by primates and rats, and investigations into the medicinal properties of forest trees.

Field assistants have been trained from nearby Yelwa village to support the research effort by setting up and monitoring experiments. They receive training in using computers, data entry, photography, and telemetry techniques, providing transferable skills making them sought after employees on the Plateau.

Assoc. Prof. Chapman says, “In funding our research plot T.Y. Danjuma has given Taraba State and the NMFP a huge boost; it is a truly exciting development. The plot will attract more Nigerian and international researchers and students, it will provide work for more of the local community, and it will strengthen conservation initiatives. Data from the plot will contribute towards understanding the effects of climate change, carbon sequestration and forest fragmentation.”

To learn more about CTFS-ForestGEO visit our website.