Behind the Image: The Great Spotted Woodpecker

As beautiful as he may be, this great spotted woodpecker is not the star of this show. By perching on tree trunks, these birds disperse many species of bryophytes - a perfect example of multiple species interacting with each other. Editor's pick, César Garcia, tells us more about his winning image.

What is your Profession?

I’m a Botanist, taxonomist and curator.

What type of research are you involved in?

Mostly research in ecology and taxonomy of bryophytes, particularly epiphytic bryophytes in the Iberian Peninsula and São Tomé e Príncipe (Gulf of Guinea, Africa). I’m also interested in the conservation aspects (Red lists and Red data Books) and effects of climate change.

Why did you become interested in this area of research?

My interest came from the fact that I’m a field botanist and after my degree, I began to lead a team that does research in this area. I enjoy trying to understand the ecosystems and their species, environmental variables, etc.

How did you become interested in photography?

I’m the curator of a bryophytes collection at the Natural History Museum in Lisbon. Photography is important to me since I need these skills in my job. I capture images of species (particularly in field) and habitats to create databases that provide information for current and future generations.

Where and how was this photo taken?

The photo was taken in Portugal, city of Ourém, in an open area near an oak forest.

Why were you there at the time?

I go out to the field many times, studying the pattern and distribution of bryophytes – either alone or with colleagues. Camera, GPS and a magnifying glass are required accessories in the field.

Can you explain a bit more about the image?

The image taken in March this year and depicts a tree trunk (Quercus faginea) with the bryophyte ‘Homalothecium sericeum’ and moss ‘Nogopterium gracile’. In addition, we see the great spotted woodpecker ‘Dendrocopos major’ making an appearance.

What about this scene particularly interested you?

As you can see, the bird is beautiful, however, what is interesting in this picture is the role that various bird species have in the distribution of spores and propagules of various epiphytic species. The trunks of these trees and their bryophytes are an important bank of spores and propagules. Birds disperse many species of bryophytes – some with high conservation status.

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