Research Areas: 
Forest regeneration in tropical montane forest

Biotic and abiotic conditions in mid and high elevation montane forests are dramatically different from those in the lowlands. For example, lower temperature regimes result in slower decomposition and nutrient mineralization rates. At mid-elevation there are also important changes in the functional traits of tree species. For example, communities dominated by species that form arbuscular mycorrhizal associations in the lowlands are replaced by those with ectomycorrhizal associations. 

Montane forests are also likely to be strongly impacted by global climate change; recent research in Central American forests indicates that climate warming is raising the elevation at which clouds form. These changes are likely responsible for observed species migrations and are likely to have important long-term effects on tree communities.

We have established a network of twelve 1-ha forest dynamics plots in the Fortuna and Palo Seco montane forest reserves in western Panama. Our sites span gradients of elevation (850-1400 m), and rainfall (3m - 6+m/yr) as well as a steep gradient in soil nitrogen and phosphorus availability. Plot data are being used to design experiments to examine mechanisms determining range distributions of trees and to compare the importance of constraints on recruitment success between high elevation sites and lowland sites in central Panama.

In 2013-2014 we are working on the second (10 year) recensus of our plots, and on the long task of revising and finalizing identifications of the 525+ tree species present within them. We are collaborating on this project with faculty and students from the Universidad Autonoma de Chiriqui (UNACHI).

Dept. of Plant Biology School of Integrative Biology
Program in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology University of Illinois