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November 29, 2006

Stanford ecologists to host forum on Latin America's tropical dry forests

Ecologists have long been concerned about the fate of the Amazon rainforest, yet far less attention has been paid to the equally irreplaceable dry forests of tropical Latin America.

On Dec.8-9, researchers from around the world will convene at Stanford University to discuss the state of the vast tropical dry forest ecosystems that stretch from southern Florida to Argentina. The two-day symposium will be held from 8 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. in the Oak Room at Stanford's Tresidder Union. The event is free and open to the public.

Characterized by discrete dry and rainy seasons, tropical dry forests are among the most highly endangered ecosystems in Latin America, according to Rodolfo Dirzo, the Bing Professor in Environmental Science at Stanford, who is leading the symposium with Hal Mooney, the Paul S. Achilles Professor of Environmental Biology at Stanford, and ecologist Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).

"These forests concentrate a significant proportion of the world's biodiversity," Dirzo said. "However, knowledge about these ecosystems remains limited in numerous fields. Furthermore, the relevant information that does exist is scattered and poorly disseminated in the scientific and policy literature."

To synthesize the latest research in the field, the symposium will bring together an international panel of experts from Mexico, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Canada and the United States. Topics to be discussed include vertebrate and insect biodiversity, seasonal rhythms and adaptations of animal life, human impacts on plants and the potential for dry forest conservation. About two-dozen participants also will contribute chapters for a new book to be edited by Dirzo, Mooney and Ceballos and to be published in Spanish and English.

The Symposium on Latin American Seasonally Dry Tropical Forests is sponsored by UNAM and Stanford's Center for Latin American Studies and Woods Institute for Environment. To register, visit

Editor Note:

For directions to the symposium on Latin American Seasonally Dry Tropical Forests, visit



Mark Shwartz, News Service: (650) 723-9296,


Rodolfo Dirzo, Department of Biological Sciences: (650) 736-7643,

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