I have just returned from a visit our new project in Belize, SUSFOR. The project is funded by the Darwin Fund and is aimed at building forest monitoring capacity in Belize. I was hosted by Percy Cho, who is with the Belize Forestry Department and also a postdoc at Oxford with me for this project.
Over our visit we spanned the length and breadth of this small but astonishingly varied country, from wet rainforest to pine savanna, from smallholder farms to vast agroindustrial clearings to breathtaking wilderness.
Three things are particularly fascinating to me about Belize's forests: (1) the frequency of hurricane damage; (2) the widespread limestone bedrock leading to non-acidic tropical soils and (3) the extensive past legacy of the Mayan civilization.
The hurricane damage can be spectacular even decades after the event, as if a giant invisible hand has snapped off the tree crowns, which for many trees have resprouted in twisted and eccentric forms.
Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University