Effect of fragmentation on the Costa Rican dry forest avifauna.
ABSTRACT: Deforestation and changes in land use have reduced the tropical dry forest to isolated forest patches in northwestern Costa Rica. We examined the effect of patch area and length of the dry season on nestedness of the entire avian community, forest fragment assemblages, and species occupancy across fragments for the entire native avifauna, and for a subset of forest dependent species. Species richness was independent of both fragment area and distance between fragments. Similarity in bird community composition between patches was related to habitat structure; fragments with similar forest structure have more similar avian assemblages. Size of forest patches influenced nestedness of the bird community and species occupancy, but not nestedness of assemblages across patches in northwestern Costa Rican avifauna. Forest dependent species (species that require large tracts of mature forest) and assemblages of these species were nested within patches ordered by a gradient of seasonality, and only occupancy of species was nested by area of patches. Thus, forest patches with a shorter dry season include more forest dependent species.
Project description:Agricultural frontier expansion into the Amazon over the last four decades has created million hectares of fragmented forests. While many species undergo local extinctions within remaining forest patches, this may be compensated by native species from neighbouring open-habitat areas potentially invading these patches, particularly as forest habitats become increasingly degraded. Here, we examine the effects of habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation on small mammal assemblages in a southern Amazonian deforestation frontier, while accounting for species-specific degree of forest-dependency. We surveyed small mammals at three continuous forest sites and 19 forest patches of different sizes and degrees of isolation. We further sampled matrix habitats adjacent to forest patches, which allowed us to classify each species according to forest-dependency and generate a community-averaged forest-dependency index for each site. Based on 21,568 trap-nights, we recorded 970 small mammals representing 20 species: 12 forest-dependents, 5 matrix-tolerants and 3 open-habitat specialists. Across the gradient of forest patch size, small mammal assemblages failed to show the typical species-area relationship, but this relationship held true when either species abundance or composition was considered. Species composition was further mediated by community-averaged forest-dependency, so that smaller forest patches were occupied by a lower proportion of forest-dependent rodents and marsupials. Both species richness and abundance increased in less isolated fragments surrounded by structurally simplified matrix habitats (e.g. active or abandoned cattle pastures). While shorter distances between forest patches may favour small mammal abundances, forest area and matrix complexity dictated which species could persist within forest fragments according to their degree of forest-dependency. Small mammal local extinctions in small forest patches within Amazonian deforestation frontiers are therefore likely offset by the incursion of open-habitat species. To preclude the dominance of those species, and consequent losses of native species and associated ecosystem functions, management actions should limit or reduce areas dedicated to pasture, additionally maintaining more structurally complex matrix habitats across fragmented landscapes.
Project description:Neotropical forests are being increasingly replaced by a mosaic of patches of different successional stages, agricultural fields and pasture lands. Consequently, the identification of factors shaping the performance of taxa in anthropogenic landscapes is gaining importance, especially for taxa playing critical roles in ecosystem functioning. As phyllostomid bats provide important ecological services through seed dispersal, pollination and control of animal populations, in this study we assessed the relationships between phyllostomid occurrence and the variation in local and landscape level habitat attributes caused by disturbance. We mist-netted phyllostomids in 12 sites representing 4 successional stages of a tropical dry forest (initial, early, intermediate and late). We also quantitatively characterized the habitat attributes at the local (vegetation structure complexity) and the landscape level (forest cover, area and diversity of patches). Two focal scales were considered for landscape characterization: 500 and 1000 m. During 142 sampling nights, we captured 606 individuals representing 15 species and 4 broad guilds. Variation in phyllostomid assemblages, ensembles and populations was associated with variation in local and landscape habitat attributes, and this association was scale-dependent. Specifically, we found a marked guild-specific response, where the abundance of nectarivores tended to be negatively associated with the mean area of dry forest patches, while the abundance of frugivores was positively associated with the percentage of riparian forest. These results are explained by the prevalence of chiropterophilic species in the dry forest and of chiropterochorous species in the riparian forest. Our results indicate that different vegetation classes, as well as a multi-spatial scale approach must be considered for evaluating bat response to variation in landscape attributes. Moreover, for the long-term conservation of phyllostomids in anthropogenic landscapes, we must realize that the management of the habitat at the landscape level is as important as the conservation of particular forest fragments.
Project description:We investigated the effects of forest fragmentation on bird assemblages in an Amazonian savannah landscape with forest fragments that have been isolated for more than 100 years. The study was conducted in areas surrounding the village of Alter do Chão (2°31'S, 55°00'W), Santarém, Brazil. Bird surveys and measurements of tree density were undertaken in 25 areas, with 19 plots in forest fragments of different sizes and six in an area of continuous forest. Data on forest-fragment size, perimeter, and isolation were obtained from a georeferenced satellite image. Variation in number of bird species recorded per plot was not related to vegetation structure (tree density). The number of bird species recorded per plot increased significantly only with fragment area, but was not influenced by fragment shape or degree of isolation, even when considering species from the savannah matrix in the analysis. Fragments had fewer rare species. Multivariate ordination analyses (multiple dimensional scaling, [MDS]) indicated that bird species composition changed along a gradient from small to large forest fragments and continuous-forest areas. In the Amazonian savannah landscapes of Alter do Chão, the organization and composition of bird assemblages in forest fragments are affected by local long-term forest-fragmentation processes. Differences in the number of bird species recorded per plot and assemblage composition between forest fragments and continuous forest were not influenced by forest structure, suggesting that the observed patterns in species composition result from the effects of fragmentation per se rather than from preexisting differences in vegetation structure between sites. Nevertheless, despite their long history of isolation, the forest fragments still preserve a large proportion (on average 80%) of the avifauna found in continuous-forest areas. The fragments at Alter do Chão are surrounded by natural (rather than planted) grassland, with many trees in the savannah matrix and the landscape has vast areas covered by forest, which may have helped to ameliorate the influences of forest fragmentation.
Project description:Amazonian bamboo forests dominated by large woody bamboo plants in the genus Guadua cover approximately 180,000 km2 and represent a key resource for many organisms. In southwestern Amazonia, native bamboo forests differ in structure, biodiversity, and growth dynamics from other forest types in the region. However, with the exception of a few species in which habitat specialization or a strong habitat association has been demonstrated, little is known about how bamboo forests influence animal community structure. In an effort to understand more about the animal assemblages associated with Amazonian bamboo forests, we characterized the structure of ground-dwelling beetle assemblages living in bamboo forests and adjacent terra firme forests in a lowland rainforest site in Peru. We conducted intensive pitfall trap surveys in 13 bamboo habitat patches and 13 adjacent terra firme habitat patches to determine if there were differences in the abundance and richness of beetle species in these two habitat types. Additionally, given that southwestern Amazonia experiences distinct dry and wet seasons, we conducted our study during the dry and wet season of one year to account for differences in seasonality. We found a distinct beetle assemblage associated with each forest type, and identified a set of dominant species that significantly contributed to the distinctness in beetle community structure between bamboo and terra firme forest. The terra firme forest had a greater number of rare species than the bamboo forest. Several beetle species exhibited a strong association with the bamboo forest, including a large species of Scarabaeidae that appears to be specializing on bamboo. We also found marked differences in beetle assemblages between dry and wet seasons. Our results support the prediction that beetle community structure in bamboo forest differs from that of terra firme in terms of species richness, abundance, and composition. Bamboo-associated animal communities require more exploration and study, and must be included in regional conservation plans seeking to protect entire animal communities in southwestern Amazonia.
Project description:Rapid fragmentation and degradation of large undisturbed habitats constitute major threats to biodiversity. Several studies have shown that populations in small and highly isolated habitat patches are prone to strong environmental and demographic stochasticity and increased risk of extinction. Based on community assembly theory, we predict recent rapid forest fragmentation to cause a decline in species and functional guild richness of forest birds combined with a high species turnover among habitat patches, and well defined dominance structures, if competition is the major driver of community assembly. To test these predictions, we analysed species co-occurrence, nestedness, and competitive strength to infer effects of interspecific competition, habitat structure, and species' traits on the assembly of bird species communities from 12 cloud forest fragments in southern Kenya. Our results do not point to a single ecological driver of variation in species composition. Interspecific competition does not appear to be a major driver of species segregation in small forest patches, while its relative importance appears to be higher in larger ones, which may be indicative for a generic shift from competition-dominated to colonisation-driven community structure with decreasing fragment size. Functional trait diversity was independent of fragment size after controlling for species richness. As fragmentation effects vary among feeding guilds and habitat generalists, in particular, tend to decline in low quality forest patches, we plead for taking species ecology fully into account when predicting tropical community responses to habitat change.
Project description:Tropical rain forest fragmentation affects biotic interactions in distinct ways. Little is known, however, about how fragmentation affects animal trophic guilds and their patterns of interactions with host plants. In this study, we analyzed changes in biotic interactions in forest fragments by using a multitrophic approach. For this, we classified arthropods associated with Heliconia aurantiaca herbs into broad trophic guilds (omnivores, herbivores and predators) and assessed the topological structure of intrapopulation plant-arthropod networks in fragments and continuous forests. Habitat type influenced arthropod species abundance, diversity and composition with greater abundance in fragments but greater diversity in continuous forest. According to trophic guilds, coleopteran herbivores were more abundant in continuous forest and overall omnivores in fragments. Continuous forest showed a greater diversity of interactions than fragments. Only in fragments, however, did the arthropod community associated with H aurantiaca show a nested structure, suggesting novel and/or opportunistic host-arthropod associations. Plants, omnivores and predators contributed more to nestedness than herbivores. Therefore, Heliconia-arthropod network properties do not appear to be maintained in fragments mainly caused by the decrease of herbivores. Our study contributes to the understanding of the impact of fragmentation on the structure and dynamics of multitrophic arthropod communities associated with a particular plant species of the highly biodiverse tropical forests. Nevertheless, further replication of study sites is needed to strengthen the conclusion that forest fragmentation negatively affects arthropod assemblages.
Project description:Tropical forest loss and fragmentation are due to increase in coming decades. Understanding how matrix dynamics, especially secondary forest regrowth, can lessen fragmentation impacts is key to understanding species persistence in modified landscapes. Here, we use a whole-ecosystem fragmentation experiment to investigate how bat assemblages are influenced by the regeneration of the secondary forest matrix. We surveyed bats in continuous forest, forest fragments and secondary forest matrix habitats, ~15 and ~30 years after forest clearance, to investigate temporal changes in the occupancy and abundance of old-growth specialist and habitat generalist species. The regeneration of the second growth matrix had overall positive effects on the occupancy and abundance of specialists across all sampled habitats. Conversely, effects on generalist species were negligible for forest fragments and negative for secondary forest. Our results show that the conservation potential of secondary forests for reverting faunal declines in fragmented tropical landscapes increases with secondary forest age and that old-growth specialists, which are often of most conservation concern, are the greatest beneficiaries of secondary forest maturation. Our findings emphasize that the transposition of patterns of biodiversity persistence in island ecosystems to fragmented terrestrial settings can be hampered by the dynamic nature of human-dominated landscapes.
Project description:Tropical deforestation and forest fragmentation are among the most important biodiversity conservation issues worldwide, yet local extinctions of millions of animal and plant populations stranded in unprotected forest remnants remain poorly explained. Here, we report unprecedented rates of local extinctions of medium to large-bodied mammals in one of the world's most important tropical biodiversity hotspots. We scrutinized 8,846 person-years of local knowledge to derive patch occupancy data for 18 mammal species within 196 forest patches across a 252,669-km(2) study region of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. We uncovered a staggering rate of local extinctions in the mammal fauna, with only 767 from a possible 3,528 populations still persisting. On average, forest patches retained 3.9 out of 18 potential species occupancies, and geographic ranges had contracted to 0-14.4% of their former distributions, including five large-bodied species that had been extirpated at a regional scale. Forest fragments were highly accessible to hunters and exposed to edge effects and fires, thereby severely diminishing the predictive power of species-area relationships, with the power model explaining only ~9% of the variation in species richness per patch. Hence, conventional species-area curves provided over-optimistic estimates of species persistence in that most forest fragments had lost species at a much faster rate than predicted by habitat loss alone.
Project description:Morphological variation between individuals can increase niche segregation and decrease intraspecific competition when heterogeneous individuals explore their environment in different ways. Among bat species, wing shape correlates with flight maneuverability and habitat use, with species that possess broader wings typically foraging in more cluttered habitats. However, few studies have investigated the role of morphological variation in bats for niche partitioning at the individual level. To determine the relationship between wing shape and diet, we studied a population of the insectivorous bat species Pteronotus mesoamericanus in the dry forest of Costa Rica. Individual diet was resolved using DNA metabarcoding, and bat wing shape was assessed using geometric morphometric analysis. Inter-individual variation in wing shape showed a significant relationship with both dietary dissimilarity based on Bray-Curtis estimates, and nestedness derived from an ecological network. Individual bats with broader and more rounded wings were found to feed on a greater diversity of arthropods (less nested) in comparison to individuals with triangular and pointed wings (more nested). We conclude that individual variation in bat wing morphology can impact foraging efficiency leading to the observed overall patterns of diet specialization and differentiation within the population.
Project description:DNA sequencing brings another dimension to exploration of biodiversity, and large-scale mitochondrial DNA cytochrome oxidase I barcoding has exposed many potential new cryptic species. Here, we add complete nuclear genome sequencing to DNA barcoding, ecological distribution, natural history, and subtleties of adult color pattern and size to show that a widespread neotropical skipper butterfly known as Udranomia kikkawai (Weeks) comprises three different species in Costa Rica. Full-length barcodes obtained from all three century-old Venezuelan syntypes of U. kikkawai show that it is a rainforest species occurring from Costa Rica to Brazil. The two new species are Udranomia sallydaleyae Burns, a dry forest denizen occurring from Costa Rica to Mexico, and Udranomia tomdaleyi Burns, which occupies the junction between the rainforest and dry forest and currently is known only from Costa Rica. Whereas the three species are cryptic, differing but slightly in appearance, their complete nuclear genomes totaling 15 million aligned positions reveal significant differences consistent with their 0.00065-Mbp (million base pair) mitochondrial barcodes and their ecological diversification. DNA barcoding of tropical insects reared by a massive inventory suggests that the presence of cryptic species is a widespread phenomenon and that further studies will substantially increase current estimates of insect species richness.