About This Project
Measuring tree traits is a fast, inexpensive and effective way to gather information on how tree species withstand environmental pressures. It's especially useful for understanding dynamic systems such as savannas. By measuring traits for key tree species this research will provide valuable knowledge that can be used by park managers, climate scientists, savanna ecologists and local communities that depend on tree populations for vital resources.
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What is the context of this research?
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What is the significance of this project?
The data generated by this research can be used in the study of many important questions in savanna ecology:
- As with other ecosystems, climate change poses a severe risk to savanna systems. By understanding where and why tree species are successful, we can predict how populations will shift with changing environmental conditions, which will in turn allow us to predict changes in the animal populations that depend on them.
What are the goals of the project?
- Measure a suite of traits (leaf, whole plant, hydrological, regenerative, stem, demographic) for 30+ key savanna tree species
- Sample tree communities across soil, fire and rainfall gradients, and across species' distributions
- Collect seeds and germinate seedlings in the Skukuza nursery to measure seedling traits
This project is already underway! An existing GAANN grant has paid for travel costs and researcher salaries and so Experiment funds will be spent entirely on improving the scope and impact of the project. The success of the research depends on the amount of ground covered and the number of sites visited, and both will be determined by available funds. If the stretch goal is reached, the money will be used to extend our field season and to increase the number of species we sample.
Meet the Team
Keala has studied plant ecology around the globe, from the rain forests of Costa Rica to the arctic marshes of Finland, but it's the tropical savannas of South Africa that have truly inspired her curiosity (and captured her heart). She received a B.A. Scripps College in 2009 and has conducted research for the Audubon Society, University of Northern Arizona, and Harvard Forest She is now working to earn her PhD in Ecology from the University of Missouri, under the mentorship of Dr. Ricardo Holdo.
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