Tropical forests play a major role in regulating the earth's climate through their effects on water cycles and their large capacity to remove and store atmospheric carbon. Because of their global preeminence as life-supporting systems and the widespread threats they face, understanding how tropical forests regenerate, store carbon, and maintain high biodiversity levels is urgent. The project will advance the understanding of the roles that animal-plant mutualisms, involving animals that eat fruit and disperse seeds, affect the tree composition, diversity, growth rates, and soil-microbe communities that influence forest growth and atmospheric carbon storage potential. The project will advance the practical principles that promote cost reduction and maximization of biodiversity conservation in restored forested areas. The project fosters international collaboration and cross-fertilization between Brazilian and US scientists and the mentoring of junior faculty, postdocs, and students of all levels. Specifically project will train at least 10 graduate and 40 undergraduate students, and develop a field biology course for students of diverse backgrounds. Community outreach activities include involvement of rural school students from middle and high school in science-learning activities at the classroom and the field study site.
The project builds around three aims that link phylogenetic, genetic, and functional aspects of biodiversity in the context of the role of plant-frugivore mutualisms (FSD) on community assembly patterns of early-successional tropical forests. With anwell-replicated experimental design that strategically incorporates functional plant traits and phylogenetic relationships as fixed-effects, the project test functional relationships between FSD processes and phylogeny on community assembly. The project then examines how the interaction of FSD processes with the functional-phylogenetic traits of pioneer plants affect the genetic diversity of the colonizer species that follow, and in turn, how patterns of genetic diversity lead to differences in plant survival, growth, and community assembly. The project ultimately explores how the biotic filtering interactions of FSD processes and the functional and phylogenetic traits of successional communities influence, or are influenced by, soil microbiomes and the nutrient pools and carbon transformation processes they control. The project advances basic knowledge by exploring mechanisms and outcomes across diverse scales of biological organization rarely brought together in a single experimental framework: from trophic interactions and dispersal processes, to soil microbes and their biogeochemical cycling effects.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
|Effective start/end date
|9/1/21 → 8/31/26
- National Science Foundation: $1,729,656.00