Monday, January 14, 2008

Effects of access trails in long-term research plots

In a forthcoming paper in the journal Biotropica,1 Liza Comita and Gregory Goldsmith “sought to quantify the significance and spatial extent of research trail impacts on the structure and dynamics of the seedling layer in the 50-ha permanent forest dynamics plot on Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama”. This site is very heavily used:

The number of people working within the 50-ha plot on any given work day ranges from six to 12, with up to 20 people present in the plot during the main census of trees, which occurs every 5 yr.

While seedling densities were (unsurprisingly) significantly lower on trails, they were significantly higher within 5 m of the trails. Seedling recruitment showed a similar trend, but the differences were not statistically significant. Between 5 and 20 m from the trails seedling densities were lower than the average for the plot, and recruitment was significantly lower. [more]

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