Collaborative Research: Frugivory networks and the assembly rules during early plant community assembly

Project: Research project

Project Details


Understanding how tropical forests regenerate after clearing is crucial to the conservation of natural resources and biodiversity. In the tropics, seed dispersal by birds helps certain trees to spread back into deforested areas and regenerate forests. The unique feature of this study will be to ask what role fruit-eating birds can play overall in tropical forest regeneration. The research will go beyond separate studies of individual plants and birds to study the combined role of birds as dispersers in a whole forest community. Working in deforested pastures in Puerto Rico, researchers will follow the behavior of birds and the seasonality of fruit production by trees, measure the abundance of incoming seeds of different tree species, and add seeds to test whether dispersal is limiting regeneration. The project will also use an innovative method involving the labeling of seeds with stable isotopes to follow the actual movement of seeds by birds. Results will contribute new knowledge about the dynamics of tropical forests, including the interactions between plants and animals and how species assemble into forests on open land.

Most tropical forests worldwide are secondary forests that have regenerated following the abandonment of agriculture and grazing. Understanding what drives regeneration will help land managers accelerate the recovery of forests and counteract continuing forest loss. The project will also incorporate students and citizens into the data collection activities and serve as an education and information dissemination tool. Research activities will train a Ph.D. student and provide hands-on experiences for other students and the general public through a partnership with local educational organizations.

Effective start/end date11/1/1210/31/15


  • National Science Foundation: $156,100.00


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