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A long-term ontogenetically integrated basin-wide study of forest regeneration in lowland western Amazonia (Varun Swamy & John Terborgh, Duke University, 2008-)

Principal Investigator: Varun Swamy, PhD, Duke University

Center for Tropical Conservation
Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences

Duke University Box 90328, Durham NC 27708, USA.

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Previous research

English Version
This research project will implement a long-term basin-wide study of forest regeneration in the lowland tropical rainforests of the Madre de Dios river basin in southeastern Peru. The primary goal is to test hypotheses about the relation between seed fall and sapling establishment in a highly diverse tropical tree community. Previous research suggests that animal-mediated processes such as seed dispersal and herbivory can have a profound influence on the spatial organization of tree communities and favor the maintenance of high diversity in tropical rainforests. The research efforts proposed in this study will provide data that will allow a comprehensive evaluation of the major factors thought to influence regeneration processes in tropical rainforests, particularly the ecological role of animals.
The project involves the set-up of replicate seed rain grids and sapling recruitment monitoring efforts in multiple permanently marked tree stands located in mature floodplain forest habitat across the Madre de Dios river basin in southeastern Peru. In addition to seed rain and sapling recruitment, key abiotic variables such as understorey light environment and soil moisture will also be documented in sufficient detail and resolution.
Broader impacts of this project include the gathering of baseline data for examining the long-term impacts of climate change and human settlement on forest structure and composition in lowland rainforests of the Amazon basin. A deeper understanding of the processes that influence forest regeneration in lowland Amazonian rainforests will represent a major advance in basic science that will inform current and future conservation, restoration and management efforts directed towards these ecosystems. This project will also help to prepare the next generation of Peruvian ecologists and conservation scientists - several Peruvian university students will assist in research efforts and receive hands-on training and mentoring from the principal investigators.