The principal objective of the ecological and remote sensing approach is to develop a comprehensive and standardized protocol for recognizing and comparing Tropical Dry Forests (TDFs) successional stages. Secondary successional stages are likely to be the most frequent state TDFs in the next decades, but at present no standardized method exists to assess their status, complexity and relative value to society. First, TROPI-DRY works towards characterizing the structure and composition of the vegetation and some of the key fauna under different successional stages in the TDFs of the Americas.
We characterize plant species and some key animal species that could be used as indicators of ecosystem degradation by the presence/absence of these species in different successional stages.
We work towards determining plant functional groups in each successional community by characterizing plant phenology (i.e. vegetative and reproductive phenophases), plant reproductive traits (i.e. pollination syndrome, sexual expression, and seed dispersal), and biotic interactions (i.e. herbivory, seed dispersal, and pollination). The former information will allow us to predict the consequences of disturbances on any of these factors that are key to the regeneration of TDFs.
We work towards the develop an ecological succession index with the information obtained from the structure, composition, ecological interactions, and phenological and reproductive plant traits for each successional stage that will be linked to the remote sensing component via inverse modeling techniques. The natural sciences and remote sensing component of this research will emphasize the development of standardized protocols for data collection and the integration ranging for site selection protocols to regional mapping of ecosystem complexity estimations.