Ecology projects and acronyms


We had our first big meeting of the SECO Project last week, where the different core working groups shared their ideas and did some planning for the year ahead. During the meeting, I started noting down the many acronyms that were being banded about to describe networks of survey plots, researchers, and databases.


reSolving thE current and future Carbon dynamics of the dry trOpics. SECO isn’t really a real acronym, but the word SECO is the Spanish word for “dried”, which makes sense because the project aims to improve understanding of the carbon cycle, particularly the woody biomass component, in “dry tropical” vegetation, i.e. savannas, dry forests, possibly shrublands, across the world.


the Socio-Ecological Observatory for Southern African Woodlands. SEOSAW is a network of researchers and plots across southern African savanna/woodlands. The remit is broad, simply to understand the response of southern African woodlands to global change, to provide an infrastructure for researchers to conduct their research across the region, and to facilitate collaborative research. I’ve spent a lot of time working on SEOSAW stuff. My PhD used the SEOSAW database, and I was employed for about 6 months as a research assistant to work on databasing for the project.


Not really an acronym, but is used as a shorthand for the Amazon Forest Inventory Network . The project has developed a very rigorous framework for long-term monitoring of rainforest ecosystems, based around repeat inventory of permanent forest plots. They work with partners across Amazonia to maintain these plots and to train scientists in the relevant methodologies. RAINFOR developed the mortality codes which are used as a base for the SEOSAW and databases to record mortality.


More focussed on floristics than biomass dynamics, the DRYFLOR project is a network of researchers aiming to improve understanding of seasonally dry tropical forests (SDTF) in Latin America. Dry forests are very poorly protected compared to wet forests, and as a result are highly fragmented and often degraded by agriculture, yet they contain many endemic species and are highly diverse. DRYFLOR aims to promote conservation of these under-appreciated ecosystems.


A bit of a pun on the more well-known DRYFLOR. I heard Jennifer Powers talking about her DRYFour network of four dry forest monitoring sites in Central America during a seminar she was giving. The plots are located in Mexico, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Colombia. They did lots of hydraulic trait measurements and measured dry forest structure to understand how hydraulics varied across different dry forests.


TROpical Biomes In Transition was a NERC funded project which ended in 2009 that looked at what drives changes in vegetation structure across wet-dry transitions in the dry tropics. Basically the transitions from wet forest to savanna. I think they did a lot of work on CO2 exchange and eco-physiological measurements. I don’t think they established plots during the project, but I don’t know much about it.


the African Tropical Rainforest Observation Network. AfriTRON is similar to RAINFOR in that they aim to do long-term monitoring of rainforests through repeat plots, but they operate mainly in West Africa and the Congo Basin, with a few plots in Tanzania. Another interesting aspect of AfriTRON is that they work on peatlands which are a major carbon store in the central Congo basin.

While not an acronym, it’s important to include this in the list, as many of the other projects listed have some connection to . FP hosts data from AfriTRON, RAINFOR, SEOSAW, other networks, and many individual researchers. FP provides a database for storing tree plot data, metadata about the plots, and some auxiliary data like soils and traits.


the North Australian Tropical Transect. The NATT is one of TERN’s plot transects which runs from near Darwin south through the Northern Territory down to what I think is just a line of latitude, or possibly a mean annual precipitation contour at about 500 mm/yr, not really sure.


the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network. Operating in Australia, TERN combines many different data collection techniques to monitor Australia’s ecosystems, including permanent tree survey plots, eddy flux towers, phenology cameras, LiDAR, soil, hydrology, all sorts. TERN is supported by the Australian government and at least from my limited experience with their platform is an incredibly well developed monitoring system. I suppose it is easier to achieve when the whole continent is one country.

TERN run AusPlots , also known as the ATN (Australian Transect Network), a subsidiary that maintain a national network of permanent plots, which are divided into transects, of which the NATT is one.


the Tropical managed Forests Observatory is unusual compared to other networks operating in the same moist tropical forest vegetation in that they focus only on understanding the long term effects of logging on these ecosystems. Thus, their plots are spread across managed forests, plantations, areas previously felled, areas likely to be felled, and they also have plenty of experimental sites. This is one of the few networks with a decent number of sites in southeast Asia.