Topics: Ecosystems

Several research projects by Drs. Dennis Whigham and James Lynch assessed the ecological effects of selective logging, sustainable agriculture and hurricanes on dry tropical forests in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Forests there and in adjacent areas comprise one of the largest remaining tracts of essentially intact forest in Mesoamerica. Tropical forestry, particularly harvesting of mahogany, is an important industry in parts of the Yucatan. One project by Whigham, Lynch and several collaborators concentrated on evaluating a long-term tree harvest plan for an ejido in the southern part of the state of Quintana Roo. They inventoried test plots, evaluated natural regeneration and seedling growth in the intact forest and in natural and logging-caused tree gaps, and studied the resultant impacts on resident and migratory birds. They also assessed the use of logging gaps and log yards as regeneration sites for mahogany, and determined the conditions needed for successful enrichment planting. They found that growth rates of mahogany were below the predicted levels that would be necessary for the planned sustainable harvest and there were no obvious impacts of logging on the bird populations. The research indicated that it was possible to successfully plant mahogany seedlings in logging gaps and in log yards but that many seedlings suffered from herbivore damage.