Combining with a high deforestation rate, poaching in the Atlantic forest threatens plant and animal populations. Most hunted mammals are medium and large body-sized herbivores, seed dispersers or seed predators. The local extinction of this fauna creates so-called "empty forests", with vegetation apparently intact but altered in its plant-animal interactions. Therefore, cascading effects on the demographic and genetic structure of plant populations are expected, especially for large-seeded species needing large seed dispersers. This post-doctoral project aims at determining the cascading effects of defaunation on plant-animal interactions, focusing on local extinctions of large primates. We are going to determine the effect of defaunation on the demographic and genetic structure of a large-seeded species, Cryptocarya mandioccana (Lauraceae), along a defaunation gradient in the Atlantic Forest. Specifically, we pretend to determine the qualitative and quantitative contribution of each seed disperser to the reproductive success of C. mandioccana through the combination of behavioural data, field experiments and gene flow.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: