Fruits and frugivory in neotropical primates and in Amazonian flooded and unflooded forests

Hawes, Joseph E. (2012) Fruits and frugivory in neotropical primates and in Amazonian flooded and unflooded forests. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia .

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Abstract

The richness and resilience of tropical forest ecosystems are best described by the
myriad of ecological interactions linking co-occurring species together. The many
functions previously served by ecological links are often only detected once these links
are lost. Of particular interest in this regard are the mutualistic networks between
fruiting plants and vertebrate frugivores, whose interdependent relationship is
fundamental to the functioning of tropical forests. This thesis examined these fruitfrugivore
interactions at two contrasting scales, and using two different approaches. On
a landscape scale in western Brazilian Amazonia, the focus was on a community-wide
assessment, with particular attention paid to the differences between two highly
divergent but adjacent species-rich forest types, seasonally-flooded várzea forests and
unflooded terra firme forests. As part of this comparison, the powerful role of the
annual flood pulse was shown to determine both spatial patterns of forest structure and
temporal patterns of fruit production. The strong influence of this seasonal cycle was
apparent in the adaptive traits observed in plants and animals, with corresponding
effects upon their networks of interactions. The role of frugivore body size as an
important trait in relation to the degree of frugivory within consumers was emphasised
via one of the most extensive compilations on the feeding ecology of any frugivorous
vertebrate taxon. By amassing the observations of feeding records accumulated over
several decades of neotropical primate field research, and accounting for the highly
variable levels of sampling effort among primate species, the prevalence of frugivory at
the mid-high spectrum of body mass was confirmed. This continental-scale metaanalysis
also revealed that, despite representing arguably the most observable and wellstudied
group of vertebrate frugivores in tropical forests worldwide, most primate
species were heavily undersampled in terms of the richness of fruits known to occur in
their diets. These astounding gaps in our cumulative knowledge highlight the challenges
faced in assembling comprehensive fruit-frugivore networks for entire communities,
where the diets of most consumers are even more poorly understood than for primates.
This is particularly pertinent in the face of ever-increasing threats to ecosystems
comprised of, and sustained by, these complex webs of interactions.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Zoe White
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2014 10:32
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2014 10:32
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/41400
DOI:

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