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Sven Batke

Sven assessed the epiphyte diversity of tropical montane forest in Cusuco National Park, Honduras. Epiphytes are plants that live an almost independent life away from the forest floor and make up in some instances half of the plant diversity in a tropical ecosystem. They are a super diverse group and include families such as Orchidaceae, Bromeliaceae, Ericaceae, Gesneriaceae, Melastomataceae, Peperomiaceae, Rubiaceae, Araceae and Cactaceae. Because epiphytes are very sensitive to disturbance (e.g. logging, climate change), and as such are good forest health indicators. Therefore, studying this incredibly important group is of fundamental importance in facilitating future conservation efforts in Honduras. Sven’s research aimed to investigate vegetation changes along altitudinal gradients and how climate change and anthropogenic disturbances affect their future distribution. Moreover, because of the general lack of standardized sampling protocols within canopy research, Sven, in collaboration with Merlijn Jocqué (Koninklijk Belgisch Instituut voor Natuurwetenschappen, Brussels) and others, further aimed to develop a standardized sampling protocol for canopy organisms including epiphytes. Using canopy access methods such as rope techniques enabled him to study this extraordinary and often unknown life above ground level. His project was partially funded by Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and supervised by Dr. Daniel Kelly (TCD).

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