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Nature's Complex Connections

May/June 1998

New research performed by scientists at the Institute for Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York, is demonstrating the remarkable interconnectedness of nature.

Researchers Clive Jones and Richard Ostfeld, along with their colleagues, manipulated forest plots at the Institute, first by removing white-footed mice and adding acorns. The study, funded by NSF's Division of Environmental Biology, revealed a number of interrelationships between denizens of the forest--including white-footed mice, gypsy moth larvae and black-legged ticks. For example, during years of large acorn production, the population and survival rates of white-footed mice increase. The rise and fall in mice population in turn impact the cycles of gypsy moth production. Acorn production also has an effect on the density of larval ticks.

"A remarkable amount of nature is interconnected," says Jones, "with unexpected players and interactions." Jones also believes these complex relationships have implications for human health, and for understanding, predicting and managing complex ecosystems.

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