From March 21 to 25, SEFS doctoral student Emilio Vilanova traveled to Kourou in French Guiana to take part in a meeting, “Thematic School on Functional Ecology of Tropical Rainforests in the Context of Climate Changes: From Real Observations to Simulations.” Mostly organized for graduate students and young scientists, the meeting included many sessions to discuss the fundamental processes driving tropical forest dynamics, and how to study them by means of climate stations—permanent sample plots with a major focus on modeling.
In addition to the presentations and traditional lectures, an important part of the thematic school involved practical works, both in the field/greenhouses (measurements on trees or seedlings) and in classrooms (modeling and simulation). Emilio also got a chance to visit an interesting tropical rainforest experimental site of Paracou, including the Guyaflux tower.
From there, thanks to the support of the RAINFOR network, and with partial funding through the Corkery Family Chair Fund, Emilio got to spend several weeks in Venezuela from March 30 to May 5. He was there to work with a diverse group of students, professors and technicians from Universidad de Los Andes in Venezuela, specifically from the Instituto de Investigaciones para el Desarrollo Forestal, on the re-census of 18 permanent forest plots located in western Venezuela.
This research is part of the ongoing effort to monitor the dynamics of forests in the neotropics, and also a critical part of Emilio’s doctoral research at SEFS, where he is working with Professor Greg Ettl. His aim is to analyze the factors driving the main differences in wood productivity and turnover in a contrasting environmental setting in Venezuela using information collected from these and other forest plots—and by applying a functional trait approach in the process.
On this field campaign, Emilio helped survey six plots that were installed during the 1960s in the Andean cloud forests, including a botanical check and the collection of leaf samples from 61 individuals corresponding to the most important species in the area. A group of skilled tree climbers carried out that task.
After that, the crew moved to the Caparo Forest Reserve in the western plains region to evaluate six more plots established originally in 1990 in lowland seasonal forests. Using a similar approach, they reviewed some individuals for botanical identification, and also climbed into 27 individuals to collect leaf samples. Finally, a reduced crew moved to the El Caimital sector, also in the western plains region (Barinas state), in order to re-census six more plots established in 1960.
Along with Emilio, the other participants in this field work included a forest technician, botanist, tree climbers and an undergraduate student, as well as several local workers, or “parataxonomists.”
Photos © Emilio Vilanova.