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October 13, 1997

Lindbergh Grant to support research on rainforest restoration

By Jennifer McNulty

Karen Holl, an assistant professor of environmental studies at UCSC, has received a prestigious Lindbergh Grant from the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation to continue her work on tropical reforestation.

The grant for $9,935 will support Holl's research on the restoration of tropical rain forests in Latin America, where forests are being cleared for agriculture and then frequently abandoned after five to 10 years due to declining productivity or changes in global food markets.

Only 10 Lindbergh Grants are presented annually, and the maximum amount of $10,580 represents the cost of the Spirit of St. Louis airplane in 1927. Holl's proposal was one of nearly 400 submitted. Applicants from a wide spectrum of disciplines are rewarded for work that offers significant potential to further a better balance between technology and the natural environment.

Although nearly half of the tropical moist forest worldwide has been destroyed and approximately 2 percent of the remaining forests are being destroyed each year, information on tropical forest recovery is extremely limited.

Restoration is problematic because the disturbed land lacks species native to the original forest, and agricultural operations have often introduced erosion and nutrient problems, displaced native seeds, compacted the soil, and reduced soil fertility. Stressful climatic conditions and competition with aggressive, non-native pasture grasses add additional challenges.

"Developing techniques to restore these ecosystems constitutes a formidable challenge, but restoration is an essential part of ensuring the future well-being of the rapidly increasing human population," said Holl, who has spent the past three years investigating factors that limit recovery and exploring strategies to facilitate restoration of tropical forests.

The Lindbergh Grant will fund experiments that involve the planting of shrub species to facilitate ecosystem recovery and native tree seedlings that will generate valuable timber resources. The grant funds her work for a 14-month period that ends September 1, 1998. This research has been previously funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy's Global Change Program, and the American Philosophical Society.

The Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation was created in 1977 to mark the 50th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh's epic New York-to-Paris flight. The effort to establish the national nonprofit organization was led by General James H. Doolittle and astronaut Neil Armstrong.

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