Life on Trees

In progress

01.10.20 → 31.12.25

Basic data on biodiversity, such as the variety of life forms coexisting on a single tree, are still lacking and prevent a full understanding of the complexity of interactions among organisms in a tropical rainforest. Filling this gap has recently become more achievable thanks to advances in canopy access methods and genetic tools.

The main aims of the research program Life on Trees (LOT) are to generate baseline knowledge about the number of species a single tropical tree can support and to understand how these communities of organisms are assembled. All eukaryotic life forms are studied: animals, plants, fungi and protists. This is an unprecedented sampling effort in the canopies of three big trees and in restricted areas located at three altitudes (400, 800, 2400m a.s.l.) along the eastern face of the Andes. The program also aims to support forest conservation and public outreach by demonstrating the importance of conserving large old trees in little disturbed habitats.

The scope of this program is not only scientific. Using the simple example of a large tree, we can reach out to the public and explain difficult concepts, such as what biodiversity is and how it is generated and sustained. In addition, the tree is a strong symbol that has an emotional impact. We hope that this program will build awareness about the impacts of deforestation, and conversely the value of conservation, by showing foresters, city dwellers or villagers that when a tree is cut down, a whole range of biodiversity disappears.

LOT is a 6-year program (2020-2025) with three projects along the eastern side of the Andes:

  • LOT/Amazon 2021-2022: located in Parque Nacional del Río Abiseo, Peru, at 400m a.s.l. It started with a test mission in October 2021 and consisted of three collection missions in 2022.
  • LOT/Andes 2023: located in Parque Nacional Yanachaga-Chemillén, Peru, at 2500m a.s.l.
  • LOT/Amazon-Andes 2024: is planned in a transition zone between the Andes and the Amazon, at Natural Reserve  La Isla Escondida, 800m a.s.l.

The “Life on Trees” program (2020-2025) is a joint initiative of the  Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) and the Fonds de Dotation Biotope pour la Nature (FDBPLN). RBINS (Principal Investigator: Maurice Leponce) is the scientific coordinator of the LOT program, in its conception, execution and follow-up. The FDBPLN Biotope (Project manager: Olivier Pascal) is the financial and operational manager of the program.

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External members

The complete list of participants can be consulted on the Life on Trees website