Previous work on ECTS 2 at OTS research stations
The complex biological, socioeconomic, and political environment surrounding La Selva Research Station and adjacent private and public protected areas provides a rich field for the study of protected ecosystems within a broader landscape matrix of human uses.
The Central Volcanic Cordillera Conservation Area that surrounds La Selva has been under increasing pressure from a growing agricultural frontier, burgeoning human population, and accompanying major infrastructure (residences and commercial districts, roads, power lines, dams, and more).
These activities have caused increased sedimentation of rivers and streams, increased amounts of pesticides blown into the preserve, noise pollution, and undesirable incursions into the property (e.g., poachers).
Meanwhile, a number of studies conducted at La Selva have documented the changes in land use and their effects on plant and animal communities around the preserved areas, and some effort has been developed to monitor and measure the influx of agrochemicals (mainly pesticides and fungicides) into the La Selva preserve. The need exists to measure these inputs into the natural system and their effects on the ecological integrity of La Selva and the Conservation Area ecosystems, and develop strategies to deal with any deleterious inputs.
Agrochemicals applied in the sugar cane and rice plantations upstream from Palo Verde Research Station and park and water management policies are likely contributing to the cattail invasion that is threatening to eliminate the Palo Verde wetland, an internationally recognized RAMSAR site.
Since Palo Verde National Park is surrounded by an agricultural matrix, it is an ideal location to monitor how changes in agricultural practices, in the context of global climate change, affect not only the Park ecosystem but also human health and other human quality-of-life issues.
Water-use data in the mid and lower Tempisque River Basin, where PVNP is located, is available since the early eighties, providing a unique opportunity to model water balance in the basin and the hydrodynamics of the wetlands. Furthermore, GIS-based models of land use are available for several periods allowing the integration of human effects into the analysis of water use and landscape patterns in the region .
The landscape in which Las Cruces Research Station is located is ideally suited to long-term studies on the effects of habitat fragmentation on populations and communities. Roughly 75% of the forest has been lost over the last 50 years, leaving a mosaic of forest fragments (1-300 ha) immersed in a matrix of coffee farms and pastures.
Existing research has examined the impacts of fragmentation on several groups of fauna establishing a long-term baseline to explore in depth the evolutionary consequences of fragmentation as well as the fine scale exchanges between fragments and their matrix. Other data sets include historic forest surveys as well as data currently being generated by the Forest Dynamics plot at Las Cruces.
Examples of questions for ECTS 2: How do natural and human-dominated systems interact?
These questions are posed for inspiration, but bear no weight on prioritization of proposals. We encourage creativity in the types of questions posed in the proposals.
- What arrays of reserves within the landscape matrix will sustain biodiversity, ecosystem functions, ecosystem services, and socio-political viability?
- How do protected areas affect human health and well-being in adjacent communities?
- What landscape management strategies increase inter-patch connectivity, achieve sustainable populations and communities, and improve their adaptation to climate change?
- How does nutrient cycling change in protected areas and/or fragmented ecosystems as a result of human activities within the surrounding landscape matrix?
- How do protected areas, fragmented ecosystems, and areas under human use interact genetically and ecologically?
- How do mobile toxins such as pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers impact ecosystem functioning within protected areas? Are natural systems more susceptible to mobile toxins than man-made systems?