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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Epiphyllic communities on leaves at tropical forests: causes and consequences for leaf functioning at different scales

PI:  Bruno Rosado, Centro de Gestão de Pesquisa, Desenvolvimento e Inovação – CGPDI, based at University of Campinas (UNICAMP)
U.S. Partner: Scott Saleska, University of Arizona
Project Dates: August 2013 to April 2017
 
2-515 Field Work Team
The project team pose during a 2014 field trip.
This project focuses on improving our knowledge of the basic ecology of forests so we can better understand the response of plant species based on their interaction with epiphylls, identify their role in the carbon cycle in different scales, and anticipate the effects of climate change and different forest management practices on forests and their functioning in ecosystems. This study will provide several intellectual gains and broader impacts to scientists, environmental planners, and students. It should also provide a missing link in forest carbon models with the potential for better understanding atmosphere-vegetation relationships by examining the influence of leaf traits on epiphyllous communities and leaf functioning. Defining the spatial patterns of the influence of epiphyllous communities on leaf functioning among species and sites may be important to assess the overall carbon balance at a particular site. With this clearer understanding, more meaningful models of forest carbon processes can be formulated that incorporate leaf surface variables and epiphyllous communities.
Dr. Rosado and his team expect to develop basic science investigations with relevant results for development goals and challenges. This goal will be reached by stimulating and supporting the development and dissemination of next-generation instrumentation and maintaining and modernizing the shared research and education infrastructure, including facilities and science and technology centers. A major and broad impact of this proposed study to the public is that it will provide the basis for new information that will enhance our understanding of carbon fluxes. This is especially important given that Brazil has recently approved a new Forest Code that will result in escalating deforestation, increasing the urgency to demonstrate the value and functioning of species. Considering the new paradigm of the green economy that now surrounds this discussion, these researchers expect to produce results on biodiversity research combining floristic, metagenomic, and functional ecology to screen forest leaves. They anticipate strengthening partnerships with science centers and similar institutions to develop exhibits in science and involve the public in research and education activities. Data will be made available in a timely manner by means of databases and digital libraries, and research and education results will be presented in formats useful to policy-makers and broader audiences.
Summary of Recent Activities
This project ran from August 2013 through April 2017. In his final report, the PI Dr. Bruno Rosado noted the importance of taking microbial aspects into account in trying to anticipate how the Amazon will respond to global change. In the east-central Amazon, Amphyrrox longifolia, is a very abundant and broadly distributed tree species (Tapajós National Forest, Brazil) but the microbiome has been unknown. The PI and his team evaluated the bacterial community structures associated with the phyllosphere, leaf litter, and rhizosphere of this and other plant species in a pristine Amazon forest through high throughput sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. They also looked at biological nitrogen fixation rates and tree growth rate to determine the effects of epiphylls on tree and ecosystem functioning. The team has several publications in process as of May 2017, but according to the PI they highlight the need to protect environmental conditions that allow the presence of epiphyllous communities and their effects on Amazon forests.
 
Beyond the scientific findings, many of which are still being analyzed and prepared for publication, Dr. Rosado considers education and outreach to be among the major impacts of his project. The project helped support the research of three Master’s students, three PhD students, and one postdoc. In addition, the field course organized in December 2016 served a diverse group of participants. Many of the students in the course were pursuing their own projects related to important aspects associated with social development and environmental management, and many were brought up in the Amazon in families with limited economic resources. The broad audience for the course (including a student from UFOPA, Angélico Nonato, who ran for vice-mayor in the city of Oriximiná, Pará, during the 2016 elections) helped disseminate the knowledge gained in the project more broadly and facilitated application of the findings and research tools to various contexts in the Amazon. For instance, during the small projects that the students had to conduct during the course, applying the knowledge being taught to them, one group proposed a project to evaluate how epiphylls and functional traits could be associated with differences between forests and agricultural areas in the Amazon, for plants co-occurring in both areas, and the ecological implications of such differences.
 
As for input into government policy, every year the PI and his team must submit a report on their scientific activities in the federal reserves to ICMBio, a Brazilian federal government agency that manages the National System of Conservation Units, including proposing and creating new units and monitoring and protecting existing ones. In this sense, all the results obtained in this PEER project were shared with them, promoting a better connection between the academic research community and natural resource managers and also promoting improved management practices based on the data collected and scientific recommendations made.
 

2-515 Sample Collection2-515 Sample Analysis2-515 Undergrads during field work
An undergrad team member collects samples during a recent field trip.The project team takes a break to pose during sample analysis.Undergrad students on an observation platform during the field trip to a tropical  forest (photos courtesy of Dr. Rosado).

Although the PEER grant has now ended, Dr. Rosado has received two grants totaling more than $80,000 from Brazilian science agencies to support his ongoing research. He continues to collaborate with his U.S. PEER partner and with several Brazilian researchers he worked with on the PEER project. He and his colleagues intend to apply for a joint São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)-U.S. National Science Foundation Partnership for International Research and Education (PIRE) award to support their expanded research activities.


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