This week, about 40 researchers from several places of the world met in Paraty, Brazil to discuss the ecology of bromeliad ecosystems. We had intense and productive days of talks and discussions about topics that range from the critical maximum temperatures of invertebrates inhabiting bromeliads to the effects of drought on aquatic insects communities. It has been a GREAT week, where all of us learned a lot in a very friendly environment that involved several faculty, Postdocs, Ph.D students and Master students from different laboratories. The idea behind The Bromeliad Working Group is to join forces in collaborative projects along Central and South America to test ecological theory using bromeliad systems as study models. These studies can be done investigating and manipulating single bromeliads or a group of bromeliads in a local site to multiple sites in a regional scale.
I just came back from an exciting trip to the Atacama desert where I worked with a group of paleoecologists led by Dr. Claudio Latorre to collecting fossil rodent middens. Dr. Latorre and I are starting to investigate changes in the soil food webs in the Atacama during the last 50,000. Rodent middens represent important paleoecological records for arid regions of the world. In particular, Abrocoma and Phyllotis middens in South America (Atacama Desert, Chile) have provided unique spatial and temporal information about long-term ecological and climatic changes in arid and semi-arid environments. Plant macrofossils preserved in the faecal pellets of these rodent middens present high taxonomic resolution data, and together with radiocarbon dating, have been used as records of paleoclimatological and vegetational changes. Further, these rodent middens have been used as refuges by a high diversity of taxa and represent ecological evidence of soil arthropod communities inhabiting the rodent middens spanning from 50,000 years ago till present. Soil communities from rodent middens can be very useful for making inferences about the effect of past and ongoing environmental conditions on arthropod diversity and food web structure.
The picture on above shows a typical paleomidden, which are waste piles that packrats construct out of fecal matter and urine. Urine dries and crystalize trapping plant remains and dead invertebrates. The picture on the right shows a leaf-eared mice (Phyllotis sp), one of the two species responsible for the middens in the Atacama.