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Five-Year Grant Funded

January 1, 2006
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Sarracenia purpurea

The Division of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation has recommended that Harvard Forest Senior Ecologist Aaron Ellison's proposal "Moths, ants, and carnivorous plants: the spatial dimension of species interactions" be funded, beginning March 1, 2006. The goal of this 5-year, $585,000 research project, is to understand how species interactions change the spatial distribution of dynamic habitat patches across the landscape, and to determine how food webs are structured within and among these patches. Ellison and his collaborator Nick Gotelli at the University of Vermont will continue to use the pitcher-plant microecosystem for this research. This system consists of the carnivorous plant Sarracenia purpurea; the unique food web of bacteria, protozoa, rotifers, mites, and fly larvae that live within its rainwater-filled leaves; three species of bog-inhabiting ants that are the primary prey for this carnivorous plant; and larvae of the pitcher-plant moth, Exyra fax, which cut and drain pitchers and remove food web habitat. Results from surveys of 50 New England bogs and three field experiments to be conducted at Tom Swamp will be used to parameterize a simulation model to predict changes in spatial structure of ant, moth, and plant populations, and the structure and composition of the aquatic food web associated with the plant. 

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