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Modelling the ecological and human risk impacts of invasive Hedychium coronarium capybara dynamics in São Paulo State, Brazil

Abstract

White ginger, Hedychium coronarium, is an invasive plant in riparian habitats in Brazil. Work by Dalva Matos team has shown this species may be a favored food plant of native Capybara. This is a human health concern, as Capybara carry ticks with bacteria that can transmitted Rocky Spotted Fever to humans. However, the mechanisms underpinning Hedychium-capybara dynamics are not well understood, but are crucial to our ability to manage both species in order to mitigate associated human disease risks in this region and other Brazilian regions. We will bring together Durham's modelling, plant invasion and plant-soil interactions expertise with work already established by Dalva Matos team, to better understand how plant-soil interactions, nutrient cycling and the strength of the Hedychium-Capybara a relationship. We will then model how this dynamic impacts on human disease risk through ticks in São Paulo. A visit to São Paulo will achieve this by: I) comparing growth of native and invasive plants in an experiment using invaded and non-invaded soils, and measuring soil nutrient content in relation to capybara abundance; II) monitoring the habitat uses of capybaras, using a GPS collar/lridium and camera traps, considering all vegetation types occurring in the riparian area. Setting up a cafeteria experiment using grasses and Hedychium to feed the capybaras maintained enclosure individual; III) holding a modelling workshop to establish how we might use information on soil-Hedychium-capybara dynamics to model disease risk. (AU)

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