Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Birds And Bats Sow Tropical Seeds
Scientists believe they may have found a way to regrow tropical forest on deforested lands. The plan would involve planting fast-growing, fruit-producing trees, like figs, in the formerly forested areas. These trees would attract birds and bats which would deposit seeds from nearby forests onto the ground below. The dropping of these seeds would, in effect, return native forest species to the deforested patch. Scientists will test the theory in Veracruz, Mexico to see if coaxing birds and bats back into the area will help restore the forest's biodiversity.
Restoring the rich diversity of trees that once characterized expansive tracts of tropical rainforest gets a helping hand from native birds and bats. Just how big a role these winged gardeners play is a question ecologists from the University of Illinois at Chicago and several Latin American universities are about to find out by setting up essentially a living laboratory in Mexico's gulf coast state of Veracruz.
Henry Howe, a noted authority in restoration ecology and a professor of biological sciences at UIC, will lead the multi-year test, funded initially by a five-year, $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Co-investigators include Christina Martinez-Garza, a biologist on the faculty of the Autonomous University of Morelos in Mexico, and a former doctoral student of Howe's at UIC; Martin Ricker, director of the biological station in Los Tuxtlas, Veracruz and a former UIC student; and Rodolfo Dirzo, the Bing Professor in environment science at Stanford University.