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Paleoecology Study in Ecuador Image 1
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Paleoecology Study in Ecuador (Image 1)

July 2, 2010
Paleoecology Study in Ecuador (Image 1) A grain of maize pollen recovered from Amazonian sediment. Maize pollen is one of the key indicators of pre-Columbian human occupation in Amazonian sites. The oldest record from Amazonia comes from Lake Ayauchi, Ecuador, where a team of researchers led by Mark Bush, professor of biological sciences at Florida Institute of Technology, found maize pollen in sediment cores dating to 6000 calendar year BP (Bush et al. 1990 Nature). The team returned later to collect a new core from Lake Ayauchi to conduct further analyses on this sequence. Data gleaned from these sediment cores will help with successful conservation efforts in the future. More about this ImageSuccessful conservation of tropical biodiversity requires that we understand the mechanisms controlling habitat and species distributions. Two potent forces induce changes in these distributions: climate change and human activities. Researchers like Bush use paleoecology to understand the changing patterns of tropical biodiversity. Through the study of fossil pollen, diatoms and charcoal, they can reconstruct the history of habitats in tropical South America, as well as reconstruct climate change over the last 200,000 years and relate it to patterns of biodiversity, speciation and human occupation. From these observations, scientists contribute to the current debate on global climate change and species conservation. To obtain this data, researchers must locate and visit ancient lakes in the neotropics. Lake sediments hold a history of the surrounding landscape since the lake's formation. A core of these sediments provides them with a complete history of that location. The cores are brought to the surface using a coring rig small enough to fit inside a backpack. As many of the lakes lie in some of the most remote locations on Earth, the fieldwork is arduous and not for the faint-hearted. Although the coring is an important and exciting facet of their research work, the great majority of the researcher's time is spent in intensive lab work, counting and identifying the fossil pollen and statistically analyzing the resultant data. (Date of Image: 2005) [See Related Image.]