Friday, 18 November 2016

Ant bridges connect shy tropical tree crowns

Ant biodiversity study confirms basic island biogeography principles 
Date:November 16, 2016
Source:Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Internet and phone connections are essential for effective communicators and for success in business. New results from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama show that connections between trees may be important for maintaining the rich diversity of tropical forests.

From below, the tropical forest canopy looks like a giant, backlit jigsaw puzzle. A thin, bright outline of light isolates each tree from the others. Biologists call this tendency for each tree to stand alone "crown shyness."

Tropical forest canopies harbor more than 40 percent of all of the world's terrestrial species. Toucans fly and monkeys leap across the void between trees. But for raccoon-like coatis, scuttling possums and tiny ants, each tree is an island.

One of ecology's long-standing rules-of-thumb is that big islands -- the ones surrounded by water -- have more species on them than little islands do. This also applies to isolated patches of forest surrounded by agricultural fields: big patches of forest generally have more species than small patches.

"Nature is so variable, it is sometimes frustrating to try to explain even what seems like an obvious pattern," said STRI research associate Steve Yanoviak, who is also the Tom Wallace Endowed Chair for Conservation at the University of Louisville. "In this case, we were very pleased to see that something as complicated as diversity in the tropical forest canopy could be explained simply by viewing trees as islands."


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