An Edge Hill University lecturer is helping to create a vital worldwide research group studying a special group of plants which grow high up in the canopy of tropical forests.
Senior Lecturer in Plant Science Sven Batke, is one of the world’s leading researchers studying epiphytes (air plants) which don’t take root in soil and include ferns and orchids.
Despite being vital to the global ecosystem and its flow of water and carbon, data about the plants has never been shared amongst individual researchers or stored centrally.
EPiG, the Epiphyte Inventory Group, will bring together data from around the world allowing researchers to see the ‘big picture’, identifying patterns and areas of potential research.
Sven, who climbs up to 100m canopy trees to study epiphytes, said:
“Epiphytes are vitally important to our ecosystem as they account for over 9 per cent of the world’s total vascular flora and up to 50 per cent of the leaf biomass in tropical forests.
“There are small numbers of academics studying epiphytes around the world, with most research being confined to tropical forests, but everyone carries out data sampling in their own way using different methods.
“This data is then processed and stored away with little or no sharing of data. EPiG will allow all this data to be made available to the whole research community for the advancement of knowledge.
“But not only that, we want to standardise how we all gather data going forward. This will help us to identify biological patterns and potential problems facing epiphytes in the future.”
Developed by Sven at Edge Hill University as the only UK member, EPiG brings together 27 academics and researchers from across South America and Europe.