Field Sites

We work in many fantastic places around the globe – but much of work in the lab has focused on three primary field locations including (i) long-term dynamics of growth and change within a tropical forest in the Area de Conservacion, Guanacaste, Costa Rica; (ii) elevation transect at the Rocky Mountain Biological lab in Colorado; and (iii) a global network of ‘Gentry’ forest plots across latitudinal and elevational gradients.

(1) Long-term Dynamics and Structure of a Tropical Forest

We organize a long-term forest dynamic plot in Guanacaste Costa Rica. It is the largest, longest running forest dynamics plot in the New World. We are monitoring the dynamics of a ~20ha permanent plot located in the lowland tropical-dry-forests of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The research site is located within the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste , specifically Santa Rosa National Park. This plot was originally surveyed in 1976, almost 40 years ago by S.P. Hubbell and G.C.Stevens.

Recently, in collaboration with Carolyn A. F. Enquist and Nathan Swenson the forest was resurveyed in 1996 and 2006 – containing approximate 50,000 individual trees consisting of ~200 woody species within the plot. Research in the ‘San Emilio’ forest focuses on tree population dynamics, the influence of soil and soil moisture and local and regional climatic changes on local dynamics. We have used trait-based, ecophysiological, and macro ecological approaches to more closely match physiological attributes with local and regional distribution.

For a copy of my vegetative key to the trees and woody shrubs of Upland Deciduous Forest of the ACG click here . This work, in collaboration with Jon Sullivan, is also published online via the ACG. The URL is available on the Flowering Plants Species Webpages URL listed below.

Visit the Flowering Plant Species Homepages for Guanacaste Costa Rica by clicking here En Espanol

Help grow the Guanacaste Conservation Area – purchase threatened rainforest here .

(2) Assessing community functional composition and ecosystem flux across elevational gradients – Rocky Mountain Biological Lab, Gothic Colorado.

Scaling the functional attributes of plants, communities, and ecosystems across elevational gradients: Responses to climate change – Rocky Mountain Biological Lab

Since 2003 we have been monitoring ecosystem carbon fluxes, species composition and turnover, and phylogenetic and functional trait composition of montane to alpine plant communities across an elevational gradient. An important question in ecology is to understand how attributes of species influence the functioning of ecosystems. This study is designed to forge links between variation in the physical environment (e.g., changes in temperature and precipitation with elevation), changes in the functional attributes of plant species (plant size, leaf morphology and physiology etc.) and the functioning of whole ecosystems (the fluxes of carbon and water).

Synthesizing this knowledge is critical for predicting responses of the biosphere to climate change. The mountainous landscape in and around RMBL provides enormous range of physical conditions, from warm wet meadows to cold dry ridge tops. The resulting plant communities are likewise both functionally and phylogenetically diverse. We propose to assess how plant functional diversity and whole ecosystem fluxes vary across a range of elevations and environments. Our work at RMBL will be part of a larger global project. We are in the process of starting similar elevational studies of plant functional diversity and ecosystem fluxes across elevational gradients in SE Arizona and Costa Rica. Data from these field studies will form the basis for the development and testing of mechanistic, predictive models linking the functional attributes of organisms to large scale processes in plant communities and ecosystems.

 (3) A global network of ‘Gentry’ forest plots across elevational and latitudinal gradients



Costa Rica


Microsystem Forest Plots