Photos from the Field: Wildlife Recovery during Tropical Forest Succession
Bruno T. Pinotti et al., (2015). Wildlife Recovery During Tropical Forest Succession: Assessing Ecological Drivers of Community Change. Biotropica, 47: 765–774. doi: 10.1111/btp.12255
Despite the high proportion of secondary forests in the tropics, their conservation value remains poorly understood, particularly with regard to animals. Most theoretical studies of succession have focused on plants, linking life history trade-offs to well-known patterns of community change. However, the same trade-offs proposed for plants should apply to animals, and indeed, animal studies show a change in community dominance from habitat generalist to forest specialist species during succession. Focusing on the diverse terrestrial small mammals of the endangered Atlantic Forest, we assessed which ecological drivers (habitat structure and food availability) affect community changes during succession. If the change in community dominance is driven by trade-offs between productivity and efficiency, it should be mainly associated with a decrease in food availability. As expected, from younger to older forest, habitat generalists decreased in richness and total abundance, concurrent with a decrease in arthropod biomass. By contrast, the increase in richness and total abundance of forest specialists was not clearly supported by the data; however, this group was not affected by food availability. These results are congruent with a trade-off between competitive ability and ability to use abundant resources, and indicate that the major community change during succession involves habitat generalists. Secondary forests may thus be valuable for conservation, at least where habitat loss and fragmentation are not high, and old growth forest is available.