Tropical Forest Regeneration Patterns and Conservation Strategies in Costa Rica

This week (24 Jan) the second half of the One Health Exchange session focused in on patterns of tropical forest regeneration and their impacts on coastal gradients, and species interaction.  A discussion lead by Dr. Erin Stewart Lindquist PhD (Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and Coordinator of Environmental Sustainability at Meredith College) centered mainly on her research at the Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve, located on the Pacific side of Costa Rica on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula.

Historically, much of Costa Rica’s forests were either over harvested or cleared for raising cattle and only 15% of the nation’s forests still remain.  The Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve was first instated in 1963 and thus serves as an excellent opportunity to study forest regeneration. 

In a major publication co-authored by Gini Knight, Common Trees of Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve / Arboles Comunes de la Reserva Natural Absoluta Cabo Blanco, Dr. Lindquist described the forest as having a diverse species richness with seasonal rain and seasonal flowering plants.  But perhaps more importantly, the team described the forest’s environmental gradients comprised of two main areas; a small coastal forest, and a larger inland forest. 

This unique dichotomy gave way to an interesting and profound discovery as Dr. Lindquist began to study two populations of land crabs that lived in the coastal forest.  She described an inverse relationship between the density of the crab populations and tree density, species richness, seed survivorship, and seedling survivorship; needless to say, the crab population held major implications for the forest environment.

Tying it back into our One Health Exchange, a rich understanding of forest regeneration is vital to human, animal, and environmental health.  Forests can serve as an incredible natural resource allowing for the natural production of medicines, food, shelter, fuel, industry, etc.  With so much continual deforestation today, an understanding of how forests regenerate based on human and animal interaction is crucial.

Post authored by Christopher Akiba, UNC MPH candidate

Up next (31 Jan) Pollutants and Environmental Health by Joel Meyer, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Toxicology at Duke and Mercury dynamics in aquatic systems: linking natural resource management with human health policy by Derek Aday, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology at NCSU 

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