Herbivory and vegetation surveys

Although I am back in the lab in Cambridge, other fieldwork is continuing apace. In particular there are ongoing studies on rat populations and small carnivores, studies of herbivory and natural predators, and studies of the understory vegetation and epiphytic plants. Each of these includes work categorising aspects of biodiversity in the plots as well as important functions and services that this biodiversity carries out. For example, rats are an important pest in the plantations whose numbers can be reduced by small carnivores. Herbivory on the palms can be caused by a variety of different insect pests, the numbers of which can be reduced by insect predators and parasitoids. The herb layer in the plantation contains a variety of different species together constituting a reasonable amount of biomass. As such this understory vegetation can effect carbon sequestration and nutrient dynamics. Each of these studies contributes important data to the larger BEFTA Project, but each individually also investigates the link between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in the oil palm landscape. Greater understanding of how these human-modified ecosystems work is surely the first step towards more biodiversity-friendly management.

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