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Porroca Project

This collaborative project between Gregory S. Gilbert (Environmental Studies, UCSC), Ingrid M. Parker (EEB Biology, UCSC), and the Kuna General Congress aims to understand the cause, epidemiology, and options for control of a serious emerging disease of coconuts called "Porroca". Porroca is spreading rapidly across the isthmus of Panama, with potentially devastating impacts on the economy of the Kuna People, the principal indigenous community of the Caribbean coast of the isthmus. Fundamentally, this project is aimed at helping to solve a potentially devastating socioeconomic problem for the Kuna community, with ongoing community-based experiments for non-chemical control of the disease. Components of the project include molecular detection of the pathogen (in collaboration with Nigel Harrison, University of Florida, Ft. Lauderdale), disease etiology, large-scale epidemiological studies, and workshops in research in coconut husbandry to reduce disease spread. For further information, contact Greg Gilbert at ggilbert@ucsc.edu.

Restoration of tropical forest in Costa Rica

Dr. Karen Holl (Environmental Studies Dept.) has been studying factors limiting tropical forest recovery and strategies for facilitating forest recovery in abandoned pasture in southern Costa Rica for eight years. Her research suggests that lack of seed dispersal and competition with non-native pasture grasses are the primary factors limiting forest recovery. Planting early-successional shrubs and native tree species appear to help overcome these obstacles and speed forest recovery. She is currently initiating new experiments to test large-scale tropical forest restoration strategies. This research has been funded by the US National Science Foundation, the Lindbergh Foundation, the US Department of Energy, and the Center for Field Research (Earthwatch). For further information, contact Karen Holl at kholl@ucsc.edu

Lowland rain forest research, Costa Rica

Deborah Letourneau and colleague's NSF-supported research in Costa Rican lowland rain forest since 1994 has tested trophic cascades theory, which involves the notion of indirect effects of predators and plant resources on other parts of the food web. We have found evidence that top predators (beetles) can regulate predators (ants) on plant-feeding animals (caterpillars and grubs), thus affecting plant health, productivity, and even diversity in the forest understory community. In a study of the 50+ species that live inside a rain forest shrub, we found that predators and plant resources affect the biodiversity of endophytic animals in Piper cenocladum (Piperaceae). The addition of fourth trophic level beetle predators increased diversity of consumers supported by living plant tissue, whereas balanced plant resources (light and nutrients) increased the diversity of primary through tertiary consumers in the detrital resources food web. Thus, predators and plant resources were pivotal in maintaining biodiversity in this terrestrial system. We are currently measuring the strength of these effects and how the relative importance of predators and plant resources may inform questions on conservation priorities, biological control of plant pests in tropical communities, and restoration efforts. For further information, contact Deborah Letourneau dletour@ucsc.edu

Agroecology in Latin America

Steve Gliessman's group research is carried out within the framework of ecological interactions in agroecosystems and the conversion of conventional agricultural systems to ecologically based alternative management. Research projects are in progress on allelopathic interactions between crops and weeds, multi-tropic-level interactions between insects and plants in crop systems, habitat management for pest control, and nutrient cycling as affected by cropping practices. Research projects are ongoing sat the UCSC Farm facilities and at local farms. He is active in tropical agroecology and agroforestry. Work is in progress in Mexico on the ecology of traditional agroecosystems such as home gardens, local annual polycultures, agroforestry, and chinampas. An analysis of the agricultural system as an ecosystem aids in the establishment of an agroecological basis for the long-term sustainability of agricultural productivity. For more information on the activities facilitated by the Gliessman group, please go to http://www.agroecology.org/cases.htm

Conservation of Island Systems

The lab of Don Croll and Bernie Tershy is currently involved in removing introduced rabbits, pigs, and sheep from Clarión Island and to initiate the eradication of cats and sheep from Socorro Island in the Revillagigedo Archipelago Special Biosphere Reserve, México.
The US National Research Council, Society for Conservation Biology, American Ornithological Union, Pacific Seabird Group, and Committee for the Restoration and Research of the Revillagigedo Archipelago all recommend in technical papers the removal of these introduced animals in order to end the threat they pose on both the islands and the coral reefs of Clarión and Socorro. Introduced mammal removal is also the most important management task listed in the draft management plan for the Revillagigedo Archipelago Biosphere Reserve.

We have completed the first year of a multi-year program to eradicate introduced rabbits, pigs, and sheep from Clarión Island and have planned the eradication of introduced cats and sheep from Socorro Island. Despite a series of unexpected constraints, we have removed ~24,000 rabbits and 80-90% of the pigs and sheep from Clarión. Now we are seeking support to complete this eradication and move forward on the Socorro eradication.


Jonathan Fox is currently working on two research projects involving the tropics. First, he studies World Bank-funded rural environmental and social development projects in southern Mexico. Second, he is working with a team of policy analysts and environmental activists to prepare a book that takes stock of the first eight years of the World Bank's Inspection Panel - a pioneering experiment in institutional accountability reform. Many of the development projects that provoked claims to the Inspection Panel from affected communities were carried out in tropical areas of Latin America, South Asia and Africa. This project is being carried out in collaboration with the Bank Information Center (www.bicusa.org). This project is funded by grants from the C.S. Mott and Ford Foundations.