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Forest canopies

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    Forest canopies

    Not much attention, typically, is granted to this part of the world's "last great mysterious [unexplored] domain"... not outer space, not the oceans, not the earth's interior... but rather - forest treetops.

    Scientists seek to uncover hidden half of creation living in world's treetops, Tim Radford
    The Guardian, 11 July 2003

    Scientists want to spend more than 12m in a 10-year programme to explore life's last great mysterious domain - the treetops. An estimated 40% of creation dwells in the forest canopies. But 22 out of 25 of the world's forest "hotspots" are threatened by climate change and human action, according to research today.

    Andrew Mitchell of the Global Canopy Programme, based at Oxford, and colleagues from universities and botanic gardens around the world will join UN experts at a "global canopy" summit at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, today. They want to help developing nations make an inventory of their biodiversity.

    That means spending on cranes, walkways and balloons to create a network of forest observatories to understand what goes on at the point where the trees meet the skyline.

    "You have vast amounts of leaves up there. It is where the trees have flowers, it is where the pollination goes on, where the fruiting goes on. The studies we have done until relatively recently have been as if we were all in the underground car park when all the interesting stuff was going on in the penthouse. We just haven't had a staircase to get up there. Well, now we have," Dr Mitchell said.

    "The amazing thing is that you put your traps up there and 70% to 80% of what you find comes down appears to be new to science. That leads us to expect that something like half of all life on the surface of the Earth probably lives up there."

    He and 12 colleagues report in Science today that biologists have become aware that most of creation still remains to be examined, named and described.

    "The bad news is that most of these creatures have six legs, but of course there are lots of other charismatic megavertebrates up there, from orang-utans to sloths to macaw parrots, and beautiful butterflies," Dr Mitchell said.

    Pollinating insects, scavenging beetles, plant-composting microbes and nitrogen-fixing bacteria underwrite all human economies. Researchers calculated that insects provided US farmers with $12bn (7.3bn) in pollination services each year. The global canopy project is looking for $2 to $3m a year from governments. "It's a lot less than building a go-kart to run around on Mars and it is likely to produce more valuable information, quicker," Dr Mitchell said.

    I'd love to have that job.. can't imagine too much stress there except maybe when you climb back down to give your reports

    I like that last line. The mundane escapes us.. but I guarantee you, once we know a fraction of Mars it'll be mundane too.


      Originally posted by spoon:
      ....once we know a fraction of Mars it'll be mundane too.

      ah. So true. Why is it that - once something becomes familiar, we begin to treat it with disdain.