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Author Archives: Diego Sotomayor

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We would like to advertise our ESA workshop: How to Set Up Automated Sensors Arrays for Measuring Micro-Environmental Characteristics and Synthesize to Larger Scales

Abstract: Tracking the consequences of environmental change requires information on both the physical and biological characteristics of ecological systems. Large-scale environmental data are now widely available from many data repositories. However, these data sets often need to be down-scaled in order to be paired with local ecological measurements. Hence, micro-environmental sensors are sometimes useful to integrate scales of ecological information relevant to global change. In this workshop, we will demonstrate the use of all major affordable types of micro-environmental sensors available to collect fine-scale environmental data. Using the R environment, we will also provide the means to analyze these data and also to integrate this information with ecological data and macro-environmental data streams. The overall purpose of this workshop is to provide attendees with hands on experience on the use of automated sensors of micro-environmental variables, their appropriate deployment in the field in relation to ecological questions, and an introduction to the integration of micro-scale data to larger environmental datasets. This workshop will also serve to launch MicroNet. This is an open-source, collaborative network of micro-environmental sensors deployed globally.


And this is the link to the ESA Programme:


The workshop will take place on Monday August 12 at room 304 of the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center, between 11:30am and 1:15 pm.


We hope to see you there!


Fig. 1 big survey Fig. 2 big survey


In this study we surveyed 3 deserts along the extension of the Atacama Desert: Atiquipa (15.7 S), Romeral (29.5 S) and Fray Jorge (30.5 S) over 3 years. Within each desert we sampled 5 sites, each separated at lest 2 km from each other. This allowed us to sample extensively the effects of dominant plants (shrubs) on plant communities within these deserts.


Results, as can be seen in the figures above, indicate that at extreme aridity conditions such as in Romeral and especially Fray Jorge (the most arid sites), dominant plants have a negative effect on both richness and abundance of arid plant communities. Surprisingly at Atiquipa, the strongest positive effects occurred during the driest year of the 3 years surveyed.

We conducted a field experiment to test the strength of interactions among understory plants to a dominant woody species. The experiment consisted in removing all herbaceous neighbours around two target annual plant species (Fuertisimalva peruviana and Plantago limensis), which grow in the understory of the tree Caesalpinia spinosa. Treatments were four: (1) target species with neighbours (N+) under the canopy of C. spinosa; (2) target species without neighbours (N-) under the canopy of C. spinosa; (3) target species with neighbours (N+) in open nearby microsites; and (4) target species without neighbours (N-) in open nearby microsites. After the removal treatments we meadured plant height, fruit production and final biomass. The main results are as follows:


Fig3newsig The Figure above shows that the effects of interactions as mediated by dominant plants are species specific (statistical significance is denoted with *). Mostly P. limensis displayed differences in response to removal treatments, and even those differences varied among the response variables measured.




Relative interaction indices (RIIs) also show that P. limensis responded differently in comparison to F. peuviana. For example, for 2012, the neighbours effect on biomass was stronger in open microsites. These results show that the importance of indirect effects mediated by dominant plants is species-specific, which in turn allows for coexistence in such microsites and maintains plant biodiversity at the landscape level.


Hello everyone:

The winter has settled over here and these are my goals/activities for the close future:

– Continue and finish writing big survey paper of my dissertation.

– Finish edits on the paper on the small-scale and temporal effects of dominants plants.

– Continue preparing database for nurse microclimate global contrast.

– Prepare lectures for BIO/GEO 3500 Biogeography

– Collaborate on papers and experiments within the lab: Steven, Silvio, Amanda?, FE.



Things to do:

– Finish edits on systematic review for Ecosphere

– Arrange seed collection in southern Peru

– Starting preparing Biogeography syllabus and decide on text book.

– TAing and NSTP grant proposal

– Postdoc applications preparation

– Write large survey paper and dissertation intro chapter

– Keep track of collaboration projects


Everywhere is green at Atiquipa




Plants have grown very big, not seen in years



Beautiful flowers can be seen, as this Bomarea sp.




A large patch of Fuertisimalva peruviana



A flowering Plantago limensis


Many indexes are available to estimate aridity. Stadler (2005) compiled all of them in the Encyclopedia of World Climatology that you can find here:


However, Maliva & Missimer (2012) reviewed some of the most utilized indexes:

These indexes include: AI utilized by the UNESCO (widely used),  AIm proposed by De Martonne (1926), and AIt proposed by Thornthwaite (1948).


The Consortium for Spatial Information has data available on global aridity indexes and potential evapotranspiration (required to calculate the AI used by the UNESCO). Here are the links: CGIAR-CSI, and



Recent observations suggest that this might be true for 2014:

This can change coastal Southern Peru (my field site at Atiquipa) from this (December 2013):

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to this (August 2011):

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Very exciting!!

– Graduate development fund,

Deadline on Monday March 31st at FGS on York Lanes. Check website for details. Travel within North America up to $250 and overseas $500. This application has to be presented prior to the conference and there is only 1 call per year.

– CUPE 3903 (ta’s union) Professional Development Fund,

Scroll down after opening the link to the appropriate fund. It requires filling a form. Money up $400 per year. Upcoming deadline June 10th (3 deadlines a year), although the fund is given after the expenses (or the conference) has happened.

– GSA (Grad Students Association). Conference support fund,

Scroll down to the appropriate fund as well. Only 1 successful application per year with 3 deadlines, upcoming deadline April 1st. Expenses are claimed after the conference has occurred. Also requires filling a form. Money is generally lower than a $100.


Ipod Nano recording



General view, dry season at Atiquipa, Southern Peru



A visiting bee!