Ecological Research

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 225–230

Intensive research activity alters short-term seedling dynamics in a tropical forest

  • Liza S. Comita
  • Gregory R. Goldsmith
  • Stephen P. Hubbell
Note and Comment

DOI: 10.1007/s11284-008-0490-4

Cite this article as:
Comita, L.S., Goldsmith, G.R. & Hubbell, S.P. Ecol Res (2009) 24: 225. doi:10.1007/s11284-008-0490-4


Researchers can have unintentional, yet significant effects on their study systems. We tested for the effects of an intensive tree census on seedling dynamics in a 50-ha permanent forest plot on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. At the community level, and for different shade-tolerance guilds, we found no significant differences in seedling recruitment or survival inside compared to controls outside the plot. However, among growth forms, canopy trees and lianas exhibited significantly lower seedling survival inside the plot. Results suggest that intense researcher activity impacts short-term vegetation dynamics, but effects do not accumulate over time.


DisturbanceForest dynamics plotLong-term ecological researchResearch impactTrampling

Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liza S. Comita
    • 1
    • 5
  • Gregory R. Goldsmith
    • 2
    • 6
  • Stephen P. Hubbell
    • 3
    • 4
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Plant BiologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyBowdoin CollegeBrunswickUSA
  3. 3.Department of Plant BiologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  4. 4.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalbaoRepublic of Panama
  5. 5.Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental BiologyColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  6. 6.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of California BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  7. 7.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA