Showing posts from March, 2014

Grad Publication: Evan Fricke

One of the big goals of ecology is to understand how ecosystems contain so many different species – in other words, to understand the mechanisms that maintain biodiversity. This is a particularly good question to ask for trees in the tropics both because forests there can have hundreds of tree species in just a single hectare and because trees use pretty much the same resources. How is it that one tree species doesn’t do slightly better than the rest at capturing light or using nutrients and crowd out the other species from the forest? One of our best explanations is that herbivores, predators, and pathogens keep individual tree species from becoming too abundant within the forest. The idea is that the more common a tree species is, the bigger target it becomes for specialized predators and pathogens. These ‘natural enemies’ limit the abundance of plant species, leaving room for other species to stay in the community. Ecologists see the signature of this occurring in tropical an…