Chris Free

I've spent the last few months developing a spatially explicit population growth model of big-leaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) in order to examine the population level impact of density-dependent seedling mortality. The seeds of a number of neotropical tree species are known to suffer increased mortality in areas of high adult conspecific density as a result of increased predation and herbivory by small mammals, caterpillars, and other invertebrates. This phenomenon is known to contribute to the high diversity of tropical ecosystems by maintaining space between conspecific adults but other population level impacts remain unexplored. The purpose of my project is to examine the population level impacts of these density dependent interactions and to determine the importance of these interactions in the management and conservation of overexploited big-leaf mahogany. The resulting model will be made readily available online as a tool for harvesters to design sustainable harvest programs on their own land.

Department of Biology

McCardell Bicentennial Hall
276 Bicentennial Way
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753