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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A new University of Tennessee study could tell scientists more about how rain forests grow back after being cleared by humans.

Dr. Sally P. Horn, a UT-Knoxville geography professor, is co-directing the study in Costa Rica to see how forest disturbance caused by ancient civilizations affects present-day rain forests.

Horn said humans cleared forests hundreds of years ago, but little is known about how extensive the clearing was or how it affects the present-day ecology of the tropics.

The three-year, $200,000 study is headed by Horn and Dr. Robert L. Sanford Jr. of the University of Denver and funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Horn, Sanford and other scientists will analyze charcoal in soil at Costa Rica’s La Selva Biological Station to learn how fires were used centuries ago to clear forests.

The team also will:

* Study pollen in the soil to learn more about early agricultural crops.

* Conduct archeological surveys and excavations to learn more about prehistoric people, where they lived and how long they lived in certain areas.

* Study present-day vegetation that has grown back in areas that were once cleared.

* Conduct similar studies in the Amazon rain forest and other types of forests in Costa Rica.

“We’re trying to untangle what happened in the past, and that will help us predict for the future,” Horn said.


Contact: Dr. Sally Horn(423-974-2418)