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Tropical Forest Dynamics in the Pacific Islands

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Franklin, J., and D. W. Steadman, 2010. Forest plant and bird communities in the Lau Group, Fiji, PLoS One 5(12): e15685. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015685 Download PDF

Franklin, J., G. Keppel and W. A. Whistler, 2008, The flora and vegetation of Lakeba, Nayau and Aiwa Islands, Central Lau Group, Fiji, Micronesica 40(1/2):169-225. Download PDF

Although evolutionary processes such as rapid speciation may drive high biological diversity in the tropics, scientists strive to understand the ecological processes that maintain high diversity in tropical tree communities -- species characteristics (growth, shade tolerance) and species interactions (dispersal, competition, predation). In the Pacific Islands, rain forests are structurally and functionally similar to rain forests elsewhere in the tropics but have fewer species (limited by long distance dispersal). Remote oceanic islands are some of the few places in the world where humans did not had significant impact on natural ecosystems until the last few thousand years, but for up to 3000 years islands of the tropical Pacific have been subjected to intensive and extensive agricultural land use and other human pressures. We can learn from these forests as most tropical forests worldwide are subjected to similar pressures these days. How resilient are they to natural and human disturbance? What are the greatest threats to their persistence? How can they be restored?

I became involved in this work in 1987 through Dr. David W. Steadman, University of Florida. His work on the biogeography, systematics, community ecology, zooarchaeology, and paleontology of birds, focuses on habitat associations, species-area relationships, turnover, extinction, comparative osteology, and species-level systematics of landbirds from Pacific and Caribbean islands. It is because of his interest in conservation of the unique avifauna of this region, and the forest habitat that supports it, that we began to collaborate.

This work has been conducted in eastern and western Polynesia, in the Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji. Brief summaries of the results of some of this research can be found via the links in the publication list below.

Publications (Please see also Janet's Publications)

Franklin, J., and D. W. Steadman, 2010. Forest plant and bird communities in the Lau Group, Fiji, PLoS One 5(12): e15685. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015685 Download PDF

Franklin, J. and Steadman, D. W., 2008, Prehistoric species richness of birds on oceanic islands, Oikos 117: 1885-1891; DOI 10.1111/j.2008.0030-1299.16922.x (IF 3.14)

Franklin, J., G. Keppel and W. A. Whistler, 2008, The flora and vegetation of Lakeba, Nayau and Aiwa Islands, Central Lau Group, Fiji, Micronesica 40(1/2):169-225. Download PDF

Franklin, J., 2007, Recovery from clearing, cyclone and fire in rain forest of Tonga, South Pacific: vegetation dynamics 1995-2005, Austral Ecology vol. 32, no. 7, pp. 789-797.

Franklin, J. and S. J. Rey, 2007, Spatial patterns of tropical forest trees in Western Polynesia suggest recruitment limitations during secondary succession, Journal of Tropical Ecology 23: 1-12; doi:10.1017/S0266467406003774 Summary

Franklin, J., S. Wiser, D. R. Drake, L. Burrows and W. Sykes, 2006, Environment, disturbance history and rain forest composition across the islands of Tonga, Western Polynesia, Journal of Vegetation Science vol. 17, pp. 233-244. Summary

McConkey, K. R., D. R. Drake, J. Franklin, and F. Tonga, 2004, Effects of Cyclone Waka on fruit bat populations in Tonga, Journal of Tropical Ecology vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 555-561.

Franklin, J., D. R. Drake, K. R. McConkey, F. Tonga and L. B. Smith, 2004, The effects of Cyclone Waka on the structure of lowland tropical rain forest in Vava’u, Tonga, Journal of Tropical Ecology, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 409-420. Summary

Franklin, J., 2003, Regeneration and growth of pioneer and shade-tolerant rain forest trees in Tonga, New Zealand Journal of Botany, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 669-684. Summary

Steadman, D.W. and J. Franklin, 2000, A preliminary survey of landbirds on Lakeba, Lau Group, Fiji, Emu, vol. 100, pp. 227-235.

Steadman, D. W., J. Franklin, D. R. Drake, H. B. Freifeld, L. A. Bolick, D. S. Smith and T Motley, 1999, Conservation status of forests and vertebrate communities in the Vava'u Island Group, Tonga, Pacific Conservation Biology, vol. 5, pp. 191-207.

Franklin, J., D. R. Drake, L. A. Bolick, D. S. Smith and T Motley, 1999, Rain forest composition and patterns of secondary succession in the Vava’u Island Group, Tonga, Journal of Vegetation Science, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 51-64. Summary

Franklin, J. 1993, Discrimination of tropical vegetation types using SPOT multispectral data, GeoCarto, vol. 8, pp. 57-63.

Franklin, J. and M. Merlin, 1992, Species-environment patterns of forest vegetation on the uplifted reef limestone of Atiu, Miti'aro and Ma'uke, Cook Islands, Journal of Vegetation Science, vol. 3, pp. 3-14. Summary

Franklin, J. and D. Steadman, 1991, The potential for conservation of Polynesian birds through habitat mapping and species translocation, Conservation Biology, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 506-521.

Tales (of field work) from the South Pacific

July 2005. Janet and two students with fresh passports went to the Kingdom of Tonga (a small island nation in the South Pacific). Within hours of arriving in the capital city, they found themselves front row at the international “Miss Galaxy” (cross-dressing) beauty pageant, also attended by members of the Tongan royal family and Ms. Minnie Driver (on holiday in the Kingdom). In the field our deserted island campsite had recently been used by “blue team” from a New Zealand "Survivor" TV series. While camping out there for a week someone in a boat brought us ice cream. Our camp was on the leeward side of the island so out clothes mildewed - but we all smelled the same so it did not matter. It did not rain for the first 8 days. Our research permit was issued by a Princess. Data collection was ahead of schedule -- all sites were visited and extra data collected. The boat only broke down a little. When it did rain and the boat broke down we were only soaked to the skin and freezing for a couple of hours. We all got along. No one got hurt. Contrary to tradition, Janet did not cut herself on a bush knife. The day the airport was shut down was not the day we wanted to leave. They had it opened again by the day of our departure. Field work was interspersed with fishing, a feast, pig hunting and whale watching. You never know how it will go. It absolutely never goes this well. Sometimes you get lucky.

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Page last modified on May 19, 2012, at 10:08 AM