Emerging Frontiers in Tropical Science Working Group
        Vegetation-precipitation coupling in the Tropics: 
hallenges and opportunities




Participant List


Project Summary:

The behavior of the tropical terrestrial hydrologic cycle, especially precipitation and its coupling to vegetation, represents a key uncertainty limiting our ability to project the evolution of the coupled ecosystem-climate system in the 21st century. Our working group will assess what we currently know, and what we still need to learn, about the two-way linkages between vegetation and precipitation, which are crucial for interpreting observed tropical ecosystem-climate interactions and embedding these interactions in state-of-the-art climate or earth system models. As a starting point in this challenging issue, our working group will consider the following question, namely: To what extent does vegetation influence terrestrial tropical precipitation characteristics, including its initiation, frequency, intensity, spatial patterns, and temporal variations? By bringing together experts in biology and ecology—the traditional core of the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS)—along with experts in atmospheric and climate science, earth system modeling, and ecohydrology, our working group will provide a solid foundation for developing capacity in an area of critical, 21st century need. Working group participants will share relevant results from their own research and brainstorm about the current state of knowledge regarding vegetation-precipitation coupling in the tropics, the outstanding challenges for observing and modeling this coupling, and areas in which we might reasonably expect to make progress. We will evaluate how we can take advantage of the wealth of 50 years of data from the OTS research community to inform modeling efforts and validate the output of models, and moving forward, how we may design experiments and employ instruments at one or more OTS research sites to assess the pathways of vegetation-precipitation coupling. Expected outcomes of our working group meeting include: (1) a synthesis paper, including recommendations for how OTS research and facilities could be used to elucidate vegetation-precipitation coupling; (2) the genesis of ideas for cross-cutting proposals and potential funding sources/programs; and (3) establishing connections with Costa Rican-based colleagues for developing collaborative research efforts.

Meeting Dates:

March 4th-March 7th, 2015, with travel dates of March 3rd and 8th.

Meeting Venue:

La Selva Biological Station.  Situated at the confluence of two major rivers, the Rio Sarapiqui and Rio Puerto Viejo, in the Caribbean lowlands of northern Costa Rica, La Selva comprises 1,600 hectares of tropical wet forests and disturbed lands. It averages 4 m of rainfall that is spread rather evenly throughout the year and is located within tropical and premontane wet forest.  Learn more here.