230 research outputs found

    The 'island syndrome' is an alternative state

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    Aim: In the half-century since publication of the Theory of Island Biology, ecologists have come to recognize the importance of predation as a decisive determinant of alternate states in many ecosystems. Island species are notorious for their vulnerability to introduced predators, yet the strength of island predator regimes has not been fully incorporated into our understanding of the forces that structure island consumer communities. Location: The Greater and Lesser Antilles. Taxon Birds and Anolis lizards. Methods: Field surveys of sclerophyll and rainforest sites on islands ranging in size from 3.5 km(2) Terre-de-Haut to 76,000 km(2) Hispaniola. Results: Evidence gathered in the 1970s and 1980s shows that Antillean anoles live at higher densities on fewer resources, grow more slowly, reproduce later and live longer than mainland counterparts in conformity with the 'island syndrome'. Data from this period show that Antillean bird communities display density overcompensation, community saturation, size-structured foraging guilds, low species diversity and low species packing, all traits consistent with the island syndrome and a regime of low predation and intense competition. Mainland species and communities display none of these features. Main conclusions: I propose that the island syndrome is an alternative state that distinguishes low-predation island communities from high-predation mainland counterparts. It follows that strong mainland predation regimes tend to prevent island species from colonizing. Conversely, invasion-resistant, size-structured island communities, despite low species diversity, prevent mainland species from colonizing islands. These predictions are experimentally testable with Anolis lizards and, if confirmed, could set island biogeography on a new course

    Do Community-Managed Forests Work? A Biodiversity Perspective

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    Community-managed reserves (CMRs) comprise the fastest-growing category of protected areas throughout the tropics. CMRs represent a compromise between advocates of nature conservation and advocates of human development. We ask whether CMRs succeed in achieving the goals of either. A fixed reserve area can produce only a finite resource supply, whereas human populations exploiting them tend to expand rapidly while adopting high-impact technologies to satisfy rising aspirations. Intentions behind the establishment of CMRs may be admirable, but represent an ideal rarely achieved. People tied to the natural forest subsist on income levels that are among the lowest in the Amazon. Limits of sustainable harvesting are often low and rarely known prior to reserve creation or respected thereafter, and resource exhaustion predictably follows. Unintended consequences typically emerge, such as overhunting of the seed dispersers, pollinators, and other animals that provide services essential to perpetuating the forest. CMRs are a low priority for governments, so mostly operate without enforcement, a laxity that encourages illegal forest conversion. Finally, the pull of markets can alter the “business plan” of a reserve overnight, as inhabitants switch to new activities. The reality is that we live in a hyperdynamic world of accelerating change in which past assumptions must continually be re-evaluated

    Do Community-Managed Forests Work? A Biodiversity Perspective

    Get PDF
    Community-managed reserves (CMRs) comprise the fastest-growing category of protected areas throughout the tropics. CMRs represent a compromise between advocates of nature conservation and advocates of human development. We ask whether CMRs succeed in achieving the goals of either. A fixed reserve area can produce only a finite resource supply, whereas human populations exploiting them tend to expand rapidly while adopting high-impact technologies to satisfy rising aspirations. Intentions behind the establishment of CMRs may be admirable, but represent an ideal rarely achieved. People tied to the natural forest subsist on income levels that are among the lowest in the Amazon. Limits of sustainable harvesting are often low and rarely known prior to reserve creation or respected thereafter, and resource exhaustion predictably follows. Unintended consequences typically emerge, such as overhunting of the seed dispersers, pollinators, and other animals that provide services essential to perpetuating the forest. CMRs are a low priority for governments, so mostly operate without enforcement, a laxity that encourages illegal forest conversion. Finally, the pull of markets can alter the “business plan” of a reserve overnight, as inhabitants switch to new activities. The reality is that we live in a hyperdynamic world of accelerating change in which past assumptions must continually be re-evaluated

    Identifying keystone plant resources in an Amazonian forest using a long-term fruit-fall record

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    Abstract: The keystone plant resources (KPR) concept describes certain plant species in tropical forests as vital to community stability and diversity because they provide food resources to vertebrate consumers during the season of scarcity. Here, we use an 8-y, continuous record of fruit fall from a 1.44-ha mature forest stand to identify potential KPRs in a lowland western Amazonian rain forest. KPRs were identified based on four criteria: temporal non-redundancy; year-to-year reliability; abundance of reproductive-size individuals and inferred fruit crop size; and the variety of vertebrate consumers utilizing their fruit. Overall, seven species were considered excellent KPRs: two of these belong to the genus Ficus, confirming that this taxon is a KPR as previously suggested. Celtis iguanaea (Cannabaceae) -a canopy liana -has also been previously classified as a KPR; in addition, Pseudomalmea diclina (Annonaceae), Cissus ulmifolia (Vitaceae), Allophylus glabratus (Sapindaceae) and Trichilia elegans (Meliaceae) are newly identified KPRs. Our results confirm that a very small fraction (<5%) of the plant community consistently provides fruit for a broad set of consumers during the period of resource scarcity, which has significant implications for the conservation and management of Amazonian forests

    Science for a wilder Anthropocene: synthesis and future directions for trophic rewilding research

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    Trophic rewilding is an ecological restoration strategy that uses species introductions to restore top-down trophic interactions and associated trophic cascades to promote self-regulating biodiverse ecosystems. Given the importance of large animals in trophic cascades and their widespread losses and resulting trophic downgrading, it often focuses on restoring functional megafaunas. Trophic rewilding is increasingly being implemented for conservation, but remains controversial. Here, we provide a synthesis of its current scientific basis, highlighting trophic cascades as the key conceptual framework, discussing the main lessons learned from ongoing rewilding projects, systematically reviewing the current literature, and highlighting unintentional rewilding and spontaneous wildlife comebacks as underused sources of information. Together, these lines of evidence show that trophic cascades may be restored via species reintroductions and ecological replacements. It is clear, however, that megafauna effects may be affected by poorly understood trophic complexity effects and interactions with landscape settings, human activities, and other factors. Unfortunately, empirical research on trophic rewilding is still rare, fragmented, and geographically biased, with the literature dominated by essays and opinion pieces. We highlight the need for applied programs to include hypothesis testing and science-based monitoring, and outline priorities for future research, notably assessing the role of trophic complexity, interplay with landscape settings, land use, and climate change, as well as developing the global scope for rewilding and tools to optimize benefits and reduce human–wildlife conflicts. Finally, we recommend developing a decision framework for species selection, building on functional and phylogenetic information and with attention to the potential contribution from synthetic biology

    CONSERVATION OF THE ORINOCO GOOSE (NEOCHEN JUBATA) IN THE MIDDLE ARAGUAIA RIVER, TOCANTINS, BRAZIL.

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    The Orinoco goose, (Neochen jubata) is a grazing herbivore of open habitats that was once widely distributed in tropical South America. Centuries of overhunting and habitat loss have reduced it to widely scattered remnant populations; it is categorized as Near Threatened globally. Within the Cerrado biome, the Middle Araguaia River houses the largest remnant population. In August 2017, a study was started to assess the situation of the Orinoco Goose in the regions of Araguaia National Park, Cantão State Park, and adjacent rice fields. We conducted counts from an aerial census (a 700 km transect), monthly boat censuses (40 km) and land censuses in rice plantations. The aircraft census counted 367 individuals in August 2017, while monthly monitoring of a stretch of the lower Javaés River over more than two years showed a seasonal population variation associated with the flood regime, with the species virtually disappearing during the flood period between January and April when river beaches are submerged. During this period, large flocks of about 1,000 Orinoco Geese were discovered not far away, concentrated in small stretches of rice plantation agro-systems in the region.  This behavioral seasonal concentration makes the species susceptible to poisoning and epizootic diseases. The findings suggest the need to re-categorize the Orinoco Goose population of the Middle Araguaia River as “Threatened” for the State of Tocantins due to the decline observed in the last 10 years, the maximum estimated population size, and the significant seasonal concentrations in a restricted area. At the same time, it is necessary to develop an action plan for its conservation in the surroundings of Ilha do Bananal, and throughout Brazil, where its threat status must be reviewed

    Disappearance of an ecosystem engineer, the white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari), leads to density compensation and ecological release

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    Given the rate of biodiversity loss, there is an urgent need to understand community-level responses to extirpation events, with two prevailing hypotheses. On one hand, the loss of an apex predator leads to an increase in primary prey species, triggering a trophic cascade of other changes within the community, while density compensation and ecological release can occur because of reduced competition for resources and absence of direct aggression. White-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari—WLP), a species that typically co-occurs with collared peccary (Pecari tajacu), undergo major population crashes—often taking 20 to 30-years for populations to recover. Using a temporally replicated camera trapping dataset, in both a pre- and post- WLP crash, we explore how WLP disappearance alters the structure of a Neotropical vertebrate community with findings indicative of density compensation. White-lipped peccary were the most frequently detected terrestrial mammal in the 2006–2007 pre-population crash period but were undetected during the 2019 post-crash survey. Panthera onca (jaguar) camera trap encounter rates declined by 63% following the WLP crash, while collared peccary, puma (Puma concolor), red-brocket deer (Mazama americana) and short-eared dog (Atelocynus microtis) all displayed greater encounter rates (490%, 150%, 280%, and 500% respectively), and increased in rank-abundance. Absence of WLP was correlated with ecological release changes in habitat-use for six species, with the greatest increase in use in the preferred floodplain habitat of the WLP. Surprisingly, community-weighted mean trait distributions (body size, feeding guild and nocturnality) did not change, suggesting functional redundancy in diverse tropical mammal assemblages

    Changes in tree community structure in defaunated forests are not driven only by dispersal limitation

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    Bushmeat hunting has reduced population sizes of large frugivorous vertebrates throughout the tropics, thereby reducing the dispersal of seeds. This is believed to affect tree population dynamics, and therefore community composition, because the seed dispersal of large-seeded trees depends upon large-bodied vertebrates.We report on a long-running study of the effect of defaunation on a tropical tree community. In three censuses over 11 years, we compared sapling recruitment between a hunted and a nonhunted site, which are nearby and comparable to one another, to determine the extent to which species composition has changed through time following defaunation. We expected to find a reduced abundance of tree species that rely on large frugivores for dispersal at the hunted site and altered community structure as a consequence.Although community composition at the hunted site diverged from that at the nonhunted site, the changes were independent of dispersal syndrome, with no trend toward a decline in species that are dispersed by large, hunted vertebrates. Moreover, the loss of large-bodied dispersers did not generate the changes in tree community composition that we hypothesized. Some species presumed to rely on large-bodied frugivores for dispersal are effectively recruiting despite the absence of their dispersers.Synthesis: The presumption that forests depleted of large-bodied dispersers will experience rapid, directional compositional change is not fully supported by our results. Altered species composition in the sapling layer at the hunted site, however, indicates that defaunation may be connected with changes to the tree community, but that the nature of these changes is not unidirectional as previously assumed. It remains difficult to predict how defaunation will affect tree community composition without a deeper understanding of the driving mechanisms at play

    Tree recruitment in an empty forest

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    To assess how the decimation of large vertebrates by hunting alters recruitment processes in a tropical forest, we compared the sapling cohorts of two structurally and compositionally similar forests in the Rio Manu floodplain in southeastern Peru. Large vertebrates were severely depleted at one site, Boca Manu (BM), whereas the other, Cocha Cashu Biological Station (CC), supported an intact fauna. At both sites we sampled small (1 m tall, ,1 cm dbh) and large (1 cm and ,10 cm dbh) saplings in the central portion of 4-ha plots within which all trees 10 cm dbh were mapped and identified. This design ensured that all conspecific adults within at least 50 m (BM) or 55 m (CC) of any sapling would have known locations. We used the Janzen-Connell model to make five predictions about the sapling cohorts at BM with respect to CC: (1) reduced overall sapling recruitment, (2) increased recruitment of species dispersed by abiotic means, (3) altered relative abundances of species, (4) prominence of large-seeded species among those showing depressed recruitment, and (5) little or no tendency for saplings to cluster closer to adults at BM. Our results affirmed each of these predictions. Interpreted at face value, the evidence suggests that few species are demographically stable at BM and that up to 28% are increasing and 72% decreasing. Loss of dispersal function allows species dispersed abiotically and by small birds and mammals to substitute for those dispersed by large birds and mammals. Although we regard these conclusions as preliminary, over the long run, the observed type of directional change in tree composition is likely to result in biodiversity loss and negative feedbacks on both the animal and plant communities. Our results suggest that the best, and perhaps only, way to prevent compositional change and probable loss of diversity in tropical tree communities is to prohibit hunting

    Changes in tree community structure in defaunated forests are not driven only by dispersal limitation

    Get PDF
    1. Bushmeat hunting has reduced population sizes of large frugivorous vertebrates throughout the tropics, thereby reducing the dispersal of seeds. This is believed to affect tree population dynamics, and therefore community composition, because the seed dispersal of large‐seeded trees depends upon large‐bodied vertebrates. 2. We report on a long‐running study of the effect of defaunation on a tropical tree community. In three censuses over 11 years, we compared sapling recruitment between a hunted and a nonhunted site, which are nearby and comparable to one another, to determine the extent to which species composition has changed through time following defaunation. We expected to find a reduced abundance of tree species that rely on large frugivores for dispersal at the hunted site and altered community structure as a consequence. 3. Although community composition at the hunted site diverged from that at the nonhunted site, the changes were independent of dispersal syndrome, with no trend toward a decline in species that are dispersed by large, hunted vertebrates. Moreover, the loss of large‐bodied dispersers did not generate the changes in tree community composition that we hypothesized. Some species presumed to rely on large‐bodied frugivores for dispersal are effectively recruiting despite the absence of their dispersers. 4. Synthesis: The presumption that forests depleted of large‐bodied dispersers will experience rapid, directional compositional change is not fully supported by our results. Altered species composition in the sapling layer at the hunted site, however, indicates that defaunation may be connected with changes to the tree community, but that the nature of these changes is not unidirectional as previously assumed. It remains difficult to predict how defaunation will affect tree community composition without a deeper understanding of the driving mechanisms at play
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