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Tropical Rainforest Plant Inventory

2010 Survey of plants inside the Biosphere 2 tropical forest biome

Principle Investigator:  Tyeen Taylor

Tropical Rainforest Plant Inventory Poster


The most recent prior survey of plants was completed in 2000.  Identifying, labeling, and mapping the locations of all extant plants in the rainforest provides a necessary base for forest research.

Plant Database:

All plant species in the tropical forest biome were identified based largely on previous plant lists.  The majority of original labels were missing, so identification was based on a combination of botanical characters and known locations of previously mapped plants.  A detailed photo database of the plants is continually being compiled with an emphasis on photographing characters pertinent to identification of the species.

Mapping the Rain Forest:

Past surveys were based on a comprehensive map of the biomes created by Teague & Co. in which the locations of all plants present in 1991 are indicated by their unique ID numbers.  Subsequent surveys provided no information about locations of new recruits or the movement of clonal herbaceous species such as many in the order Zingiberales or family Araceae.  For the 2010 survey, a grid system of labeled PVC tubes was installed for the purpose of mapping, with tubes placed at approximately five meter intervals throughout the forest.  Precise locations of each tube were carefully measured in reference to an origin (node 0,0) at the SE corner of the forest.  It is estimated that the error in tube location measurements does not exceed 20 cm for any tube.

For woody stems greater than 2.5cm diameter, the location of the center of the stem was recorded in the survey.  For herbaceous species, the 5m x 5m grid cell in which the species was found was recorded.  All locations were added to a GIS database for visualization and comparison to locations during original planting periods (figures 1 and 2).  In the GIS database, herbaceous species are all assigned an arbitrary, unique position within a grid cell relative to the cell origin for visualization.  In this way, the movement of herbaceous species among cells over time can be monitored.  Researchers are encouraged to use this system also to map out locations of all research activities in an effort to enhance the informative value of past projects on present research.

Researchers and Technicians:  Tyeen Taylor, Ph.D. Student, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona; Joost van Haren, Assistant Research Professor, Biosphere 2, University of Arizona; Ashley Wiede, Research Specialist, Biosphere 2, University of Arizona; Whitney Henderson, Research Specialist, Biosphere 2, University of Arizona; Maggie Heard, Research Technician, Biosphere 2, University of Arizona.