Project properties

Title Fire and drought resistance of Jamaica�s forests; a long-term perspective
Group Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group
Project type thesis
Credits 24-36
Supervisor(s) FEM group: dr. MT (Masha) van der Sande
Other organisation: S. Yoshi Maezumi (University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica)
Examiner(s) Prof.Dr. F.J.J.M (Frans) Bongers
Contact info masha.vandersande@wur.nl
Begin date 2019/06/03
End date
Description Climate change and human disturbances over the last millennia have shaped tropical forests into how we see them today. A better understanding of how tropical forests responded to these pressures in the past may help us understand their responses to current and future changes in climate and human influence. Paleoecologists have long tried to understand the type and intensity of human disturbances and climatic changes in the past, and the influence these had on changes in species abundances. Yet, we have a poor functional understanding of responses of species and ecosystems to external changes. Enhancing this understanding can be done by assessing how the functional traits of these species predict their responses to different pressures.

Here, you will collaborate with researchers at the University of the West Indies (Jamaica) who have reconstructed species composition for a dry tropical forest ecosystem in Jamaica. This forest is very dry but, strikingly, has received very little fire unless human-caused. For that reason, fire only started after arrival of the Ta�no people (~650 AD), and later during European conquest (17th-18th c). This could suggest that this ecosystem over time has adapted itself to drought but not to fire. To assess this, you will collect data on functional traits related to fire tolerance and drought tolerance, and use paleo data on species abundance in times of high and low rainfall. With these data, you can test, among others, the hypothesis that climate change has mainly affected drought-related traits, not fire-related traits, resulting in a drought-tolerant but fire-sensitive ecosystem today.

Also possible as Internship

Topic(s): Climate change effects /Biodiversity and functional diversity/ Population and forest dynamics
Region: America's
Climate: Tropical zone
Used skills Data collection, R software or other statistical tools
Requirements FEM-30306 Forest Ecology and Forest Management; REG-31806 Ecological Methods I