Canopy Science and the Life Epiphytic

Tropical rain forests have been a source of boundless fascination and discovery for as long as people have been exploring them. From Victorian naturalists like Wallace and Darwin who found their inspiration for theories of natural selection, to the latest advances in medicines and climate change mitigation, rain forests have revealed countless key insights to the workings of our natural world. Despite this however, there remain vast ecosystems that we have yet to study in depth and the largest of these is surely the canopy.

Aside from the deep ocean, the rainforest canopy is probably the least studied natural ecosystem on the planet and the reason why is obvious: those trees can be over one hundred metres tall! Because of this, getting to the top of them is understandably tricky and it wasn’t until fairly recently that the skills of climbing and academia came together and the field of canopy research took off. Before that, most studies of canopy species relied on either smoking them out of the tree or shooting them down with a rifle.

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