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Diversity of trees in Ecuador's Amazon rainforest defies simple explanation
Date:10/23/2008

Trees in a hyper-diverse tropical rainforest interact with each other and their environment to create and maintain diversity, researchers report in the Oct. 24 issue of the journal Science. This study was conducted in the Yasuni forest dynamics plot of the Pontificia Universidad Catlica del Ecuador, the most diverse tropical forest site associated with the Center for Tropical Forest Science/Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatory network (CTFS/SIGEO).

It is difficult to determine the effects of climate change, habitat fragmentation and species extinctions on life's diversity without a coherent model of how communities are organized; but a unified theory of diversity patterns in ecological communities remains elusive. The most complex biological systemssuch as tropical rainforestsare the most important testing grounds for theories that attempt to generalize across ecological communities; as they pose the greatest challenge. At Yasuni, in addition to the 600 species of birds and 170 of mammals, there are approximately 1,100 species of trees in the 25 hectare plot―more than in all of the U.S. and Canada, combined.

In 2001 Stephen Hubbell, a scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles proposed a neutral theory of biodiversity based on more than 20 years of data from the original long-term forest dynamics plot on Barro Colorado Island, which he co-founded in 1980. The methods that Hubbell and his colleagues at the Smithsonian established to study tropical forests in Panama were so useful that other institutions worldwide adopted the same methodologies. The plot in Ecuador was established in 1995 by researchers from the Universidad Catolica, Aarhus University in Denmark and the Smithsonian in Panama.

"The global reach of the CTFS/SIGEO forest monitoring network, and the power to test theories of biodiversity depend entirely on independen
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Contact: Beth King
kingb@si.edu
703-487-3770 ext. 8216
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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