Curiosity

Discovery

Knowledge


Most research at the reserve is investigator-driven and has covered the range of ecological scale from microscopic organisms to ecosystem-level processes. Investigators have come from Europe, Costa Rica, and the United States. They are making important contributions to our knowledge of the biodiversity and ecosystems of tropical rain forests. Below are some highlighted projects of past and ongoing research at Bijagual.

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Researchers


Studying Pentaclethra macroloba

Pentaclethra macroloba is the dominant tree species in the lowland region of Sarapiquí. Its natural distribution ends abruptly midway through the reserve. Several students and courses from Xavier University, the Organization for Tropical Studies, and Occidental College have examined various hypotheses to explain this pattern. Future projects will examine the genetic structure along the tree’s elevational gradient and test whether dispersal limitation may be explaining the current distribution.


Long-Term Projects

Research is an important component of the work done at the reserve and is part of the organization's mission. Projects at the reserve involve the participation of volunteers, interns, students and scientists from educational institutions in Costa Rica, the United States and Europe. The research results are used to direct our forest management decisions and informs our conservation policies. Here are some examples of the types of research managed by staff at Bijagual.


Forest Dynamics

A 0.5-ha plot within old growth forest was staked and first surveyed for climbing plants by Dr. Robyn Burnham and students from the University of Michigan in 2010. In 2014 the 260 trees (>10 cm in diameter) inside the plot were measured, tagged, and identified when possible. The trees have been remeasured annually and new trees added as they reach 10 cm in diameter. The purpose of the project is to understand the patterns of growth, mortality, and recruitment as climate changes. The project also documents how some years may be better than others for tree growth and survival. The interval between 2015 and 2016 saw an increase in mortality from previous years, while biomass increased slightly.

Reforestation with native tree species

Between 2002 and 2009, three areas totaling 30 hectares (ha) that were used as pasture prior to the establishment of the reserve were reforested with native trees representing 10 species. In 2003 three plots were randomly sited in a 2-ha stand of approximately 1500 trees and three additional plots were randomly placed within a 25-ha reforestation stand of 16,000 trees. These plots are measured annually. In 2009 Dr. Cris Hochwender with his course from the University of Evansville planted 200 trees and measure the plot every two years. The purpose of the project is to determine growth rates and survival of native tree species with potential for reforestation and timber production in the region. Measurements have shown that tree growth is robust and can support high levels of plant understory biodiversity.

Camera Traps

Cameras have been mounted at various locations within the reserve since January 2011. Images are taken using a Reconyx PC900 HyperFire Professional. These camera traps are set to take one picture at 30-minute intervals and 5 frames when movement with heat is detected. The images from these camera traps provide evidence of wildlife that otherwise would be unseen thereby assisting us with expanding our species lists.

 

Bird Banding

Banding first started at the reserve in December of 2011 as a class project with Xavier University. The course has continued to capture and band birds every year during their annual visit as a way of demonstrating field techniques and basic bird biology. The reserve is a contributor to the Costa Rican Bird Banding Network, and all data collected from the reserve is shared with the network. In the near future, we hope to expand the bird banding project into a citizen science program designed to document patterns of change in bird populations within the reserve and the surrounding region due to climate change. This will be long-term monitoring of bird populations with results guiding our management decisions at the reserve.

Phenology

We conduct a monthly survey of the flowering and fruiting phenology of important food sources for the Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus), paca (Cuniculus paca), and agouti (Dasyprocta punctata) including monkey pot (Lecythis ampla), titor (Sacoglottis trichogyna) and cocora (Guarea spp.). In addition, other species across the spectrum of tropical plant families including Annonaceae, Fabaceae, Melastomataceae, and Rubiaceae which are important resources for other species are also surveyed.