Annual Conference of the Society for Tropical Ecology


Dear colleagues,

We are excited to announce that in 2015, the ETH Zurich will host the Annual Conference of the Society for Tropical Ecology (Gesellschaft für Tropenökologie, gtö), focusing on “Resilience of Tropical Ecosystems: Future challenges and opportunities.” The conference ( will run from Tuesday 7th to Friday 10th April, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. The conference provides an exciting and friendly atmosphere for tropical ecologists at all levels of their career. A priority is to maximize interactions among delegates, practitioners and policy makers. Ultimately, this meeting will provide a platform for tropical ecologists to work together to ensure resilient tropical ecosystems. We welcome contributions from all fields of Tropical Ecology. Please download and print the conference poster here to display in your department.

gtoe_PosterTropical ecosystems are global biodiversity hotspots increasingly under pressure from a growing population. The complexity and unpredictability of these systems present considerable challenges for ecologists, conservation biologists and natural resource managers. The global demand for food, energy and recreation, large scale industrial land use change and anthropogenic climate change present scientific and social challenges. Ensuring resilient tropical ecosystems and provisioning a broad array of ecosystem services necessitates maintaining biodiversity at all its levels.

Past mismanagement and habitat degradation require counter measures, including habitat restoration and developing novel management approaches for resilient tropical landscape mosaics which both meet the immediate livelihood needs of rural communities and the ecosystem services for broader society. This presents great challenges but also opportunities.

The annual conference of the Society for Tropical Ecology (gtö) will provide an interdisciplinary platform for discussing these major challenges and future opportunities in tropical Ecology including:

  • Understanding tropical biodiversity
  • Defining Resilient tropical ecosystems
  • Novel approaches to understand and manage tropical ecosystems
Call for sessions

The organizing committee encourages all members of gtö and scientists interested in tropical ecology research to organize and chair sessions for presentations or workshops.

Proposals for sessions will be accepted until September 30, 2014. We welcome proposals addressing the above-mentioned topics as well as all other topics relevant to tropical ecology.

Proposals should include the following information:

1. A session title plus a short title (max. 5 words or 50 characters)
2. The goal of the session (half DIN-A4 page)
3. Names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of chairs (up to three chairs per session)
4. A list of potential speakers (please note all potential speakers will have to register and pay registration fee)

If you would like to propose and chair a session, please submit your proposal to


For all sessions, researchers and students interested in tropical ecology will be welcome to submit oral and/or poster presentations. Over the following weeks, session themes and chairs will be selected by the scientific committee. The call for presentations will then follow. Speakers will be selected by the session chairs, in collaboration with the scientific committee. Attendees not giving an oral presentation will have the opportunity to present their research in the form of a poster presentation. Efforts should be made to be specific and to avoid presenting overviews, summaries, or material that is already widely known. The goal of the conference is to stimulate new ideas by presenting new information.

More information to follow at a later date

This brief note intends to provide you with the conference date and venue for your planning purposes. More detailed information (including materials concerning the submission of talks and posters, and registration information, etc.) will follow in the coming weeks.

We are looking forward to arranging a stimulating conference and hope that you will be able to participate. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our conference office at: Please refer to the conference website for further information:

We look forward to welcoming you to Zurich!
Please forward this email to interested colleagues, students etc.

With kind regards,

The local organising Committee and
Professor Dr Manfred Niekisch
President of the Society for Tropical Ecology (gtö)

Local organizers

Dr. Chris Kettle
Prof. Jaboury Ghazoul
Dr. Barbara Becker
Dr. Claude Garcia
Michelle Grant
Prof. Kentaro Shimizu

Contact conference office:

Annual Conference of the Society for Tropical Ecology

(Gesellschaft für Tropenökologie, gtö)

“Resilience of Tropical Ecosystems: Future challenges and opportunities”

April 07 – 10th, 2015, ETH Zurich, Switzerland


2014 Bacardi Award – Erin Kuprewicz

Dr Erin Kuprewicz

2014 Bacardi Award Winner, Dr Erin Kuprewicz

The Luis F. Bacardi Award is given to a young post-doctoral researcher (no more than five years after completing Ph.D.) for outstanding conservation-related presentation at each ATBC annual meeting.

The 2014 winner is Dr Erin Kuprewicz from the Department of Botany and Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution (, for her work on:

Deciphering seed disperser decision-making: how see size and chemical defenses influence seed fate

Human effects on the environment and biodiversity are rapid, global, and long lasting. One region where these effects are most prominent is the tropics. Tropical ecosystems, the most biologically diverse habitats on earth, are experiencing unprecedented, rapid biodiversity loss.

Simplified seed fate diagram for this system involving agoutis, seeds, and seedlings. The hoarding pathway (involving hoarding, dispersal, and predation) was considered in this study. Art by Erin K. Kuprewicz.

Simplified seed fate diagram for this system involving agoutis, seeds, and seedlings. The hoarding pathway (involving hoarding, dispersal, and predation) was considered in this study. Art by Erin K. Kuprewicz.

One overlooked component of biodiversity loss is the loss of biotic interactions. Most plants in the Neotropics (up to 90%) are dispersed by animals. In fact, many plant species rely upon mammals for reliable and effective seed dispersal. Scatter-hoarding animals can dramatically affect plant survival by depositing seeds in favorable microhabitats away from parent plants (seed dispersal) and by consuming seeds (seed predation). By understanding how scatter hoarders make seed dispersal decisions, we can infer how different plant seed set strategies (producing many small seeds vs. few large seeds) or chemical defenses may influence seed survival and ultimately plant recruitment. Using agoutis (Dasyprocta punctata, Rodentia) as a study model, I experimentally tested how seed size and chemistry influence seed fates in a tropical premontane wet forest in Costa Rica. I hypothesized that seeds perceived by agoutis to be very valuable (i.e., large, non-toxic seeds) would be taken far from sources and preferentially cached over less valuable (small, toxic) seeds. Using artificial seeds created from non-toxic baked plasticine and peanuts, I manipulated fruit size (three weight categories: 4g, 14g, 24g) and chemistry (with or without 2% tannic acid) in fully factorial paired-choice field experiments.


Young agouti (Dasyprocta punctata) dispersing an artificial fruit with string and tag attached for easy tracking in space over time.

I tracked the fates of individually numbered thread-marked seeds in space and time. Overall, large (24g) fruits were moved farthest and preferentially hoarded by agoutis, whereas small (4g) fruits were eaten in situ. There was no difference in the handling, regardless of size, of non-toxic and toxic fruits by agoutis, probably due to the low concentration of tannins used. By experimentally manipulating seed size with a high degree of replication, I have discerned how this fundamental plant functional trait affects agouti seed dispersal decisions, with far-reaching implications for the evolution of seed size in plants, forest community composition, and the conservation of plants and their seed dispersers.

PhD in functional ecology of tropical secondary forest succession

At the Department of Biological Sciences of the National University of Singapore, there is an opportunity for a PhD student interested in the functional ecology of tropical secondary forest succession and/or forest restoration.

We are looking for an independent and creative applicant who is interested – and preferably with experience – in ecological field research in tropical forests. He/she will help setting up a new research project on the functional ecology of secondary forests and forest restoration in a human-dominated landscape in East Kalimantan. Within this framework, the PhD student will investigate mechanism of forest succession using a functional trait approach, seedling experiments and permanent plot data. Field work will be primarily in East Kalimantan and Singapore. There may be an opportunity to use data from one of the largest permanent plot studies on secondary forest dynamics in the Tropics ( for comparative analyses.

Application: Send a CV, a short motivation (max 1 page) and contact information of two references to Michiel van Breugel ( September 15.

The successful applicant will need to apply online for the graduate program at the Department of Biological Sciences (DBS) before October 1st. For a successful application, he/she must meet the minimum admission criteria established by the university. When admitted the student will start his/her graduate studies at DBS in January 2015 and receive a research scholarship with a monthly stipend and full tuition fee subsidy.

Visit for more information on admission criteria and procedures and details on the scholarship. Please contact Ms Reena Devi D/o Samynadan of the office of Graduate studies at DBS ( for additional questions.

ATBC 2014 Cairns Declaration in Support of Stronger Protection of the Great Barrier Reef

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is a globally recognized biological treasure. Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1981 based on all four natural criteria, it supports over 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 species of molluscs, and the world’s largest collection of coral reefs.

The GBR also contributes more than $5 billion to the Australian economy each year, and sustains nearly 70,000 jobs.

Australia’s achievements in protecting the GBR and its biota are applauded. The GBR is protected by two complementary pieces of federal legislation: the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Under the former Act, multiple use is allowed only to the extent that it is consistent with the main objective of long-term protection and conservation.

Continued government leadership is needed to secure Australia’s GBR for its future citizens and the global community. This leadership should empower government agencies, communities and local environmental organizations to prevent development that conflicts with existing environmental protection for the reef.

The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), the world’s largest organization dedicated to the study and conservation of tropical ecosystems, is concerned about plans for port development and associated dredging in the Abbott Point area. In particular, we are concerned about the feasibility of the offset requirement for reducing net sediment input into the GBR Marine Park.

At this 2014 annual meeting of the ATBC, in Cairns, Australia, the largest meeting of tropical biologists ever in Australia, we, the association representing 589 scientists and conservationists from 55 nations including Australia, DECLARE:

Therefore, be it resolved that the ATBC urges the Australian Government to:

  • Seriously consider the cumulative impacts of port development within the GBR Lagoon.
  • Reconsider the need for extended port development in the Abbott Point area in recognition of the substantial environmental cost;
  • In the event of extended port development, avoid all dumping of dredge spoil into the marine environment. Placing the dredge in contained terrestrial sites far from major courses should be explored as an alternative;
  • In the event that the Abbott Point port extension should go ahead, we ask the Australian Government to:
    • Provide costed details on options for achieving the offset requirement;
    • Provide confirmation that the proponents are willing to meet these costs;
    • Provide a process to ensure that the offset requirement is being met and is effective as a mitigation effort;
  • Maintain a scientifically robust program for monitoring water quality in catchment rivers and the inshore GBR regions to track progress towards the recovery and protection of a healthy GBR.

24 July 2014, Cairns, Australia

(Link to PDF)

ATBC Resolution in Support of Biodiversity Education, Research and Conservation in Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) forests support a disproportionate amount of species not found elsewhere on the planet. A major challenge to the conservation of Papua New Guinean biodiversity is that it remains largely unexplored and therefore under-studied.

In July 2014, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), the largest organization in the world for the study and conservation of tropical systems, convened in Cairns, Australia. This brought together 589 scientists and conservationists from 55 countries to Australia’s wet tropics, which is essentially, from a biological perspective, an extension of Papua New Guinean forest.

The ATBC congratulates the Government of Papua New Guinea for initiating the establishment of a biologically representative network of Conservation Areas in collaboration with the traditional landowners.  This process is essential for the preservation of Papua New Guinean biodiversity.

We call on the Government of Papua New Guinea to provide new funding initiatives to support the training of the next generation of Papua New Guinean biologists. A better system of funding is also needed if established researchers are to continue exploring the biota. These initiatives are essential for the documentation, understanding and protection of the globally important PNG biodiversity.

Therefore, be it resolved that the ATBC:

  • Urges the Government of Papua New Guinea to strengthen the PNG Research, Science and Technology Secretariat and to establish a competitive funding mechanism for biodiversity research open to all Papua New Guineans from government and non-governmental research organizations.  The selection process should be based on scientific merit;
  • Implores the Government of Papua New Guinea to expand the number of studentships available for postgraduate biology students;
  • Urges the Government of Papua New Guinea to create a network of Conservation Areas by approving pending proposals for the Managalas, Wanang, Torricelli and Sulamesi Conservation Areas, by increasing the number of protected areas and designating, together with the landowners, additional Conservation Areas representing all principal ecosystems in Papua New Guinea.
  • Exhorts the Government of Papua New Guinea to promote the effective management of protected areas and Conservation Areas.
  • Encourages the Government of Papua New Guinea to compensate landowners with royalties for their conservation set-asides and assist them with sustainable development projects.
  • Encourages private enterprise within Papua New Guinea to support the Government in its efforts to promote the study and preservation of the country’s biodiversity.
  • Encourages the PNG government to seek international collaboration with scientists and conservationists to achieve the above mentioned goals.

(Link to PDF)

ATBC Resolution in Support of Stronger Laws for Climate-change Mitigation and Environmental Protection in Australia

Australia has many trees, amphibians, and reptiles that are unique, being found nowhere else on Earth. Northern Australia contains a disproportionate amount of this biodiversity which occurs in little developed areas, parks and reserves, indigenous titled lands, and community-managed lands. Whilst Australia’s achievements in protecting some of its remaining native forests, wildlife and wilderness are applauded, some 6 million hectares of forest have been lost since 2000. Existing forest protection will be undermined by weak climate change legislation, and poorly regulated agricultural and urban development.

The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), the world’s largest organization dedicated to the study and conservation of tropical ecosystems, is concerned about recent changes in Australia’s  environmental regulations, reduced funding for scientific and environmental research, and support for governmental and civil society organizations concerned with the environment.

Securing Australia’s environmental heritage for its future citizens and the global community will be undermined without strong environmental legislation and leadership that empowers government agencies, communities and local environmental organizations to protect rainforests. This requires sufficient funding for research that can advise the management of these sensitive areas, environmental progress in Australia will be hampered, and the inheritance of its future citizens compromised.

At this 2014 annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, in Cairns, Australia, we, the association representing 589 scientists and conservationists from 55 nations including Australia DECLARE:

Whereas, the industrialised Commonwealth of Australia has one of the world’s highest per capita greenhouse-gas emission rates in the world, and relies primarily on fossil fuels for its electricity generation, it still is a major contributor to global climate disruption.

Whereas, human-caused climate disruption (global warming) is now one of the greatest threats to species and ecosystems worldwide, and will increasingly exacerbate the current extinction crisis arising from human endeavour.

Whereas, Australia has experienced severe fragmentation of biologically unique habitats as a result of human development, in part resulting in the world’s highest mammal extinction rate, and a major loss of other plant and animal species.

Whereas Australia has recently weakened or overturned decades of legislation designed to protect its sensitive natural ecosystems and species, as well as altered demonstrably effective climate-change mitigation strategies such as elimination of the carbon-pricing scheme.

Therefore, be it resolved that the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation:

  • Urges the Commonwealth Government to reconsider its stance on a financial penalty system to limit its greenhouse gas emissions, and that it implement a mandatory emissions-trading scheme in light of its recent decision to overturn the existing carbon-pricing scheme. The Commonwealth Government’s ‘Direct Action’ plan to reduce its emissions will be ineffective for reducing emissions.
  • Implores the Commonwealth Government to retain its Renewable Energy Target to maximise renewable energy penetration in its electricity-generation sector.
  • Commends the Commonwealth Government’s recent announcement to appoint Australia’s first Threatened Species Commissioner and a Ministerial Council on the Environment to advise the Commissioner, but encourages the Government to instate some legislative power to the position as it currently lacks decision-making power to effect real change to threatened-species policies.
  • Implores the Commonwealth Government not to devolve national oversight of industrial and urban development potentially exacerbating the status of Australia’s threatened species. The Government should not allow individual Australian states to weaken or overturn national legislation such as the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 given the recent trends for state governments to relax laws for vegetation clearing and to allow industrial activities such as logging, grazing, fishing and mining in ‘national’ parks and other protected areas.
  • Urges the government to reinstate a major funding scheme to the only independent legal entity available to limit environmentally destructive human development – the Environmental Defenders Office. Without funding to continue this essential legal representation for environmental-related cases, rampant and demonstrably damaging development will go unchecked.
  • Implores the Commonwealth Government to abandon its attempt to remove the tax-deductible status of environmental groups and non-government organisations that work to protect Australia’s unique and threatened ecosystems and natural capital.
  • Encourages the Commonwealth Government to commit to enforcing the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012 that criminalises the importation into Australia of illegally logged timber and any product made from illegally logged timber, and the Illegal Logging Prohibition Amendment Regulation 2013 that regulates compliance of the Act. Any delay in enforcement of the Act and the Regulation will result in even greater deforestation of tropical and other forests and continued loss of species from these mega-diverse habitats in the Asia – Pacific region.

(Link to PDF)

ATBC Resolution on World Cup conservation goals

Brazilian scientists receive international backing for the FIFA World Cup to deliver on promised conservation goals

The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), the world´s largest scientific society working on conservation issues in the tropics calls upon both FIFA and Brazil to seize the unique opportunity presented by the 2014 World Cup to raise the profile of Brazil´s globally important biodiversity and score a green goal for sustainable development. We propose that significant progress towards this goal can be achieved through work in two specific areas.

First, the world’s biggest football championship, the FIFA World Cup adopted a threatened species as the official competition mascot. The Three-Banded Armadillo (Tolypeutes tricinctus) was a great choice because it lives in an ecosystem – the Caatinga – unique to Brazil, and is known for its ability to turn itself into a ball. The given name to the mascot, Fuleco comes from the fusion of the Portuguese words for football (“futebol”) and ecology (“Ecologia”) and according to FIFA’s marketing strategy it seeks to use the mascot to help promote improved environmental stewardship in Brazil and elsewhere.Tolypeutes tricinctus_0527

However, the ATBC is deeply concerned that despite using the Fuleco as the official mascot of the Brazilian World Cup, this recognition has not been supported by efforts to protect this iconic species and its habitat. This is an enormous missed opportunity. The ATBC calls upon Brazil and FIFA to create a protected area dedicated to conserve the Brazilian Three-Banded Armadillo. The Caatinga forest where this charismatic animal lives is a biologically rich and unique ecosystem that currently receives the least protection of all Brazils six major biomes[1]. As the FIFA mascot, the Fuleco can serve as a powerful flagship for securing the protection of this extraordinary ecosystem.

Second, the ATBC calls upon the partnership between FIFA and Brazil to give life to the 2011 “Parques da Copa” – World Cups Parks – proposal which pledged an investment of some R$ 668 million in the infrastructure and development of federal, state and municipal parks in areas close to the 12 cities which are hosts to the World Cup matches. Brazil is recognized globally for its environmental leadership with unparalleled reductions in Amazon deforestation in the last decade and one of the largest terrestrial protected areas systems in the world. Yet this protected area system, and the benefits it delivers in protecting biodiversity and the services ecosystems provide for people, such as flood protection, needs more funding to deliver on its goals. The ATBC calls on FIFA, and the member nations who are travelling to Brazil to participate in the 2014 World Cup, to step up to their promise and stand firmly behind the vision that inspired Fuleco by investing the financial support pledged in 2011 to turn the Parques da Copa from a mere proposal to real conservation action on the ground.2014-01-27 16.52.39


Dr. Felipe Melo, Federal University of Pernambuco. Email: Tel: +55 81 21268348

Dr. Toby Gardner, Stockholm Environment Institute. Email: Tel: +46 70-363 49 40


Courses in Experimental Design & Data Analysis

The Program for Field Studies in Tropical Asia will be organising three statistics courses associated with the ATBC conference in Cairns. All three courses use open source R softwear and participants must bring their own laptops. The Basic course is targeted at students with limited or no prior statistics knowledge, and will take participants through the basics of experimental design, simple linear models, GLMs, and basic linear mixed models. The Advance course is targeted at those who feel comfortable with basic statistics and will focus on more complex GLMMs. Following the conference we will be holding a course on INLA, a package that uses a Bayesian framework, with Laplace approximation, that enables modeling of complex correlation structures.

 For more information please click HERE.

 Cost: $355 AUD

Cost includes: course fees, 7 nights accomodation and 3 meals per day.

 For further information of an academic nature, please contact Rhett Harrison:

Post-doctoral Research Position at INRA Kourou, French Guiana


pix1Three-year post-doctoral research position in Eddy Covariance Flux and Carbon Balance Modeling

We solicit applications for a research scientist (junior or senior) position at INRA Kourou (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique), French Guiana, in the framework of the ECOFOG Research Unit (

We are looking for a Scientist (young or with experience) with strong expertise in analyzing and interpreting eddy covariance flux data and/or in modeling the carbon balance of ecosystems.

Background: The Guyaflux site has been permanently recording eddy covariance datapix2 since 2003 over an undisturbed tropical rainforest site in French Guiana, South America. Furthermore, in 2010, two other flux towers were set up in managed grasslands in French Guiana in order to calculate carbon balance over these ecosystems.

Objectives : The objectives of this post-doctoral position are to (i) analyze inter- and intra-annual, climate driven, variations in net ecosystem exchange in CO2 and H2O, (ii) quantify seasonal and annual ecosystem carbon balance, (iii) combine eddy covariance and biomass data from permanent forest plots to analyze net productivity, for both the forest and grassland ecosystems. Furthermore, in collaboration with the local, active modeling team, the researcher will invest in modeling of carbon fluxes in order to simulate the influence of climatic changes on the carbon balance of these ecosystems. He will also take part to the management of the flux tower sites, in collaboration with two highly experienced full-time technicians operating and maintaining the eddy covariance and meteorological towers.

The position: We offer a post-doctoral research position (full time, fixed-term contract) for 36 months, with a possible further extension of 36 more months. Position is integrated into a top-level research group (UMR Ecofog), with strong collaboration with the research group in Nancy, France (UMR EEF).

Salary will be adjusted for research work experience (starting from around 2600 € net / month).

Available data and performed analyses should lead to 3-4 first-authored manuscripts within 3 years.

Requirements: Candidates should have a PhD in the discipline of micrometeorology, or of environmental sciences, or of eddy covariance flux, or of tree or ecosystem-level modelling. They should have excellent written skills as illustrated by their publication record. They should be able to communicate in English but are aware that French Guiana is a French speaking country.

Deadline for application is September 30st, 2014. The position is immediately available, but post-pone start is negotiable. PhD students who will obtain their degree in the near future are encouraged to apply as well.

Application: To apply, send an email with CV, list of publications, and motivation letter to Damien BONAL (, +33 3 83 39 73 43), Bruno Hérault (, +594 5 94 32 92 05) and Eric MARCON (Head of Ecofog Unit,

Research Highlight: Caution needed when interpreting High Resolution Global Forest Map

Fig. 1 Selected examples of Hansen et al.’s (1) failures in classifying of tree plantations (A to E) and herbal crops (F to H) as forest. The colors in the right halves of each panel indicate stable forest (green), forest loss (red), forest gain (blue), and forest loss and gain (magenta).

Hansen et al. (Science 342:850-853) published a high-resolution global forest map with detailed information on local forest loss and gain. A group of researchers show that Hansen et al.’s map does not distinguish tropical forests from plantations and even herbaceous crops, which leads to a substantial underestimate of forest loss and compromises its value for local policy decisions.

  • Original paper: Hansen et al. 2013.High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change. Science 342: 850-853 (Link to Hansen et al.’s response)
  • Critique: Tropek et al. 2014. Comment on “High-resolution global maps of 21st-century forest cover change”. Science 344: 981. (Link to Tropek et al.’s comment)
  • Response to critique: Hansen et al. 2014. Response to Comment on “High-resolution global maps of 21st-century forest cover change”. Science 344:981. (Link to Hansen et al.’s response)