Ecology

The creation of seed banks and culture collections will be needed as stopgap measures to prevent the extinction of important species, when changing climate conditions and disturbances prevent their continued survival in the wild. The most important wild terrestrial ecosystems are our forests, which include continental seasonal forests, rainforests, mangrove forests, and montane forests. Our forests contain most of the biodiversity on Planet Earth, and hence are the most important “banks” of species that we must preserve. Beyond preserving species, forests provide many important services to humans, and in addition, help control the carbon cycle and the climate of Earth. Because our forests are our most important biological “banks”, the National Biobank of Thailand has started a study of the dynamics and interactions of plant and animal species on a large (30 ha) forest dynamics plot (the Mo Singto plot) in Khao Yai National Park. This plot, actually initiated around 2000, is a part of the system of “ForestGEO” plots coordinated by the Center for Tropical Science of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC (see the website ForestGEO.si.edu). The Mo Singto plot contains a total of about 270 species of trees and over 150 species of lianas (woody vines), and already many species are showing changes in growth rates and mortality due to changes in weather and climate. All information on the growth and survival of every individual of each species is stored in a large census database maintained at NBT. The three major areas of research on ForestGEO plots such as the Mo Singto plot are: (1) demographic changes of species and their interactions (such as the role of animals in seed dispersal), (2) the role of forests in carbon storage, and (3) the effects of climate change on forest dynamics and carbon cycling. In addition to studying the forest ecosystem on the ground, NBT is developing a capability of monitoring forest condition and biomass using remote sensing, particularly LiDAR. Calibrated LiDAR measurements will permit the extension of monitoring over larger forest areas, and ultimately, the whole of Thailand

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