December 21, 2009

Third Bornean forest dynamics plot launched

A new 50 ha forest dynamics plot will be established in lowland dipterocarp forest at Danum Valley in Sabah, Malaysia. The plot, which will follow CTFS protocols, adds a third site to the existing Bornean forest dynamics plots at Lambir (Sarawak) and Belalong (Brunei). It is designed to sample the rich flora of central Borneo on relatively nutrient-rich soils. The project represents a collaboration between David Burslem (Aberdeen University, UK), Glen Reynolds (Royal Society SEARRP), Andy Hector (University of Zurich, Switzerland), Waidi Sinun (Sabah Foundation), and CTFS and is funded by HSBC Malaysia for a period of five years.

The plot is part of the Royal Society's South East Asia Rain Forest Research Programme, which has operated the Danum Valley Field Centre with local partners since 1985 (see The plot will be located in undulating landscape of the Danum Valley Conservation Area and will provide a baseline for on-going studies of forest regeneration, carbon dynamics and biodiversity in adjacent logged forest and forest fragmented by oil palm plantations. Plot establishment will start at the end of this year. For further details contact David Burslem ( or Glen Reynolds (

December 9, 2009

Data-analysis workshop in Beijing

Text contributed by Dr. Mi Xiangcheng

To better understand the mechanisms of biodiversity maintenance in forests of the Chinese Forest Biodiversity Monitoring Network (CForBio), the Biodiversity Committee of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and CTFS hosted a workshop on data analysis and management in Beijing on 14-24 October 2009. The workshop was led by Drs. Richard Condit, Shameema Esufali, and Yu-Yun Chen. Twenty-eight people from seven CForBio plots participated in the workshop.

Condit and Esufali used BCI plot data to demonstrate a variety of data-analysis methods, including maximum likelihood and MCMC. These demonstrations illustrated in detail the advantages and disadvantages of each method. Participants also received instruction in R and completed a series of computations.

The course on data management used the Gutianshan plot’s database for instruction in the establishment, management, and maintenance of plot data, all of which are essential to CTFS research. The intensive two-week workshop greatly enhanced participants’ ability to analyze and manage data, further strengthening by extension the entire network’s ability to investigate forest dynamics.

December 2, 2009

Publications: Nov 2009

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

Gonzalez, MA, C Baraloto, J Engel, SA Mori, P Pétronelli, B Riéra, A Roger, C Thébaud, and J Chave. 2009. Identification of Amazonian Trees with DNA barcodes. PLoS ONE 4(10): e7483.
Abstract & PDF

Kress, JW, DL Erickson, FA Jones, NG Swenson, R Perez, O Sanjur, and E Bermingham. 2009. Plant DNA barcodes and a community phylogeny of a tropical forest dynamics plot in Panama. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 106(44): 18621-18626.
Abstract & PDF

Rüger, N, A Huth, SP Hubbell, and R Condit. 2009. Response of recruitment to light availability across a tropical lowland rain forest community. Journal of Ecology 97(6): 1360–1368.

Tan, S, T Yamakura, M Tani, P Palmiotto, JD Mamit, CS Pin, SJ Davies, P Ashton, and I Baillie. 2009. Review of soils on the 52 ha long term ecological research plot in mixed Dipterocarp forest at Lambir, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. Tropics 18(2): 61-86.
Abstract & PDF

Wan Juliana, WA, DFRP Burslem, and MD Swaine. 2009. Nutrient limitation of seedling growth on contrasting soils from Pasoh Forest Reserve, Peninsular Malaysia. Journal of Tropical Forest Science 21(4): 316-327.

Wolf, A, S Davies, and R Condit. 2009. Report from the 2009 Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting: Ecological insights from long-term research plots in tropical and temperate forests. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 90( 4): 519-525.
Abstract & PDF

November 27, 2009

Ilha do Cardoso 10-ha plot established in Brazil

Text contributed by Julia Stuart and Alberto Vicentini

Under the guidance of Alexandre de Oliveira, students from the Universidade de São Paulo (USP) and technicians from Cananéia, Brazil, recently completed the first CTFS census of the 10-ha Ilha do Cardoso plot in Brazil. The plot was originally established in 2000/2004-05, with a DBH minimum of 4.78 cm, as one of four 10-ha plots in the project Parcelas Permanente São Paulo (PPSP, BIOTA-FAPESP) to study the Atlantic, restinga, semideciduous, and cerradão forest types that occur in São Paulo State.

In 2008, Ilha do Cardoso joined the CTFS network with the inauguration of a census to include all trees ≥ 1 cm. The census catalogued four new species (Rubiaceae) not enumerated in 2000/2004-05, bringing the plot total to 106 species and approximately 40,000 trees.

The plot is located in restinga forest in Ilha do Cardoso State Park on the extreme south coast of São Paulo State near the city of Cananéia. The mountainous island is approximately 22,500 ha and was made a state park in 1962. Despite nutrient-poor and water-stressed sandy soils, the forest shows high diversity. At 22°S latitude, Ilha do Cardoso is the southernmost plot in the CTFS network.

Funding from the HSBC Climate Partnership supported the census, and many research projects at Ilha do Cardoso are being coordinated by the Laboratório de Ecologia de Florestas Tropicais at USP.

November 21, 2009

China climate center welcomes citizen scientists

The opening of China’s Regional Climate Centre, the newest of five international sites where HSBC bank volunteers (called “Climate Champions”) work alongside scientists to study the effects of climate change on forests, was celebrated at Gutianshan Nature Reserve, China, on 22 September 2009. The HSBC Climate Partnership—a collaboration between HSBC, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Earthwatch Institute, WWF, and The Climate Group—has four other Regional Climate Centers in India, Brazil, the US, and the UK.

Earthwatch and the Institute of Botany at the Chinese Academy of Sciences host HSBC Climate Champions (kneeling above) at Gutianshan Nature Reserve in eastern China, where they measure tree growth and litter production using techniques developed by CTFS.

In 2005, Dr. Ma Keping (below left, with Teresa Au of HSBC) and colleagues established a long-term 24-ha forest-monitoring site in warm-temperate evergreen forest at Gutianshan as part of the Chinese Forest Biodiversity Monitoring Network, a partner network of the Center for Tropical Forest Science.

November 17, 2009

Harvard University & CTFS-AA offer a 2010 Field Biology Course to students from Tropical East Asia: "The Biodiversity of Borneo"

In association with the Harvard University Summer School, the Arnold
Arboretum and the Center for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS-AA) will offer a field biology course to be held in Sarawak and Sabah (East Malaysia) from 1 June to 11 July 2010. Students from Harvard University and universities in Asia will come together to study terrestrial and marine biodiversity, ecology and conservation, with instructors from Harvard University and other institutions (including Sabah Parks, Sabah Forest Dept., Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Univ. Malaysia Sabah, Yayasan Sabah).

Flyer for students applying in Asia.
Flyer for students applying in the US.

The forests and reefs of northwest and north Borneo have some of the highest levels of alpha-diversity in the world. The forests are home to orang-utans, hornbills, rhinos and as many as 5,000 tree species, and the reefs offer some of the best diving in the world. We will visit world-class parks and reserves (e.g., Lambir, Kinabalu and the Maliau Basin), to gain a thorough understanding of abiotic controls on species composition, and will contrast processes that maintain biodiversity in forests with those operating on coral reefs. Throughout Borneo, intensive logging and marine harvesting have occurred for many years. Our course will explore the complexities of conservation today, including trips to sustainably-managed, carbon-traded, and restored forests. We will also provide opportunities for the students to meet people living in and off the forest, to understand their motivations for forest conversion and conservation, and to consider the human health dimensions of forest change.

A key feature will be the development of skills in research project design, execution and analysis, based around the statistical platform `R.' The students will complete three independent projects, from conception to presentation. The students will gain database and web publishing skills by developing a community digital record of the trip.

Lead by Dr. Cam Webb, research scientist at the Arnold Arboretum, the course is aimed at advanced undergraduates, recent graduates currently active in biological research, and postgraduate entry-level students. Maximum age: 25. Travel, food, accommodation and course fees will be funded for Tropical East Asian nationals (ASEAN, PNG, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, China). Students will be responsible for other costs and some students may be requested to pay their international travel. Places may be available for non-Harvard, non-Asian, paying students. Students will be
selected to provide broad international representation.

For more information on the course (including instructions for application) see:

Queries and completed application materials should be directed to Dr. Cam Webb (c/o The application deadline is 5 Feb 2010.

November 7, 2009

2009 CTFS Research Grants

CTFS is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2009 CTFS Research Grants.

The purpose of these grants is to enhance the quality of science conducted at the plots and to broaden the use of the plots by a diversity of researchers. This year we received 47 proposals. The competition was highly competitive. The ten proposals listed below were selected for full or partial support.

For further information about the CTFS Research Grants Program, please see the website ( The closing date for 2010 awards will be April 1st, 2010. To see a list of recipients and proposal titles, click

CTFS Research Grants Program - 2009 Award Recipients:

Luciana F. Alves: "Assessment of aboveground carbon pools of a tropical moist forest" (Ilha do Cardoso, Brazil)

Robyn J. Burnham: "Liana diversity and abundance in the 25-ha plot, Manaus, Brazil" (Manaus, Brazil)

Britta Denise Hardesty: "Where have all the parents gone – using inverse modeling to predict the location of unobserved parents in tropical forests" (BCI)

Faith Inman-Narahari: "Seed rain and seedling recruitment in Hawai’i" (Laupahoehoe, Hawai'i)

John D. Parker: "Impacts of alien plant invasions and overabundant deer on forest regeneration and community dynamics in a temperate deciduous forest" (SERC, Maryland)

Xiaojuan Liu: Relationships between traits and species distribution (Gutianshan, China)

Qiao Lu & Matthew Warren: "Modeling aboveground plant litter chemistry as a driver of surface soil chemical heterogeneity" (Xishuangbanna, China)

Nadja Rüger: "Parameterization of an individual-based forest model" (BCI, Panama)

Watana Sakchoowong: "Influence of leaf litter composition on selected arthropod assemblages in a lowland tropical rainforest in Thailand" (Khao Chong, Thailand)

Isabelle Witté: "Are boreal forests more structurally complex than temperate or tropical forests, and at which scales? A comparison of tropical, temperate, and boreal mixedwood systems" (SERC, Maryland).

November 3, 2009

Seacology Prize awarded to Filip Damen, CTFS partner in Papua New Guinea

As the new CTFS plot in Wanang, Papua New Guinea is being established, Filip Damen is being recognized for his heroic efforts to conserve the forest of his community, thereby making the plot and other ecological research in PNG possible.

On October 8th, Filip was awarded the Seacology Prize for 2009 for his remarkable courage in protecting his community’s ancestral lands from destructive logging, and helping develop educational and economic opportunities for the eleven clans that occupy Wanang area in Madang Province, PNG. Seacology awards its prestigious international prize annually to indigenous island leaders who endanger their lives to protect their island’s environment and culture.

Click here for a video clip of Filip’s acceptance speech and the full press release.

Recognizing the threat of logging to biodiversity and the Wanang way of life, Filip led a group of Wanang clans to sign a historic conservation deed in 2000. This agreement united the Wanang clans in their resolve to limit exploitation of the lowland rainforest of their region. Since then, Filip and his community have successfully resisted the relentless pressure from logging interests to sell their land for short-term profit.

Their unique conservation strategy has been to encourage and assist with biological research in their forests. Since 2002, Filip and villagers have been working with Drs. Vojtech Novotny and George Weiblen of the New Guinea Binatang Research Center to conduct ecological research in the Wanang Conservation Area. And just last year, Filip led his community to partner with CTFS to set up the first long-term, large-scale forest dynamics plot in Oceania. This is a great achievement for Filip, for the 50-ha plot in Wanang now gives New Guinea the capacity to monitor its forests and will enable researchers to assess the response of Pacific forests to global change and understand the ecological processes that sustain healthy forest ecosystems in the Pacific region. Funding for the project is provided by John Swire & Sons (PNG) Ltd. and Steamships Trading Co.

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

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

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.