Tropical rainforests are being cut down at alarming rates, adversely affecting biodiversity and local economic sustainability. Researchers in Puerto Rico are testing ways to sustainably harvest rainforest trees by mimicking nature. Trees that die of natural causes often fall, creating gaps in the forest. These gaps can be important for biodiversity by providing microenvironments for different types of species – especially those that need lots of light to grow. Two decades of data from Puerto Rico are being analyzed to figure out how sustainable harvesting might work best – both economically and in terms of protecting the forest. These researchers are also collecting data on the melodious coqui (Eleutherodactylus wightmanae), an endangered nocturnal frog that is found only in the forests of Puerto Rico.
In 2007, Minnesota Zoo’s Ulysses S. Seal Conservation Grant Program provided funding to Kelly Josephson to participate in this project through the Earthwatch Institute. This work involved finding and measuring trees in different research plots, as well as finding and counting coquis.