Understanding the structure of animals and plant communities is one of the major challenges in ecology. One of the main variables affecting the organization of communities is the interactions between the species, such as mutualisms. Mutualistic species benefit from each other forming complex networks of interacting species. Therefore, the maintenance of these mutualistic interactions is directly linked to the maintenance of the biodiversity. Here, we investigate one keystone mutualism: seed dispersal interactions. Frugivorous species obtain food from the fruiting plants while dispersing their seeds. The main aim of this research is to characterize how patterns of interaction within seed dispersal networks vary geographically. I will use a large set of networks to identify the geographical variation in the structure of the networks and to search for general patterns at network and species level. I will analyze the seed dispersal networks using network theory, an approach that allows the characterization of interactions in communities, providing ways to quantify and to compare the structure of the species interactions across communities. As a whole, this research focuses on an important interaction pattern, because it analyses seed dispersal mutualistic interactions; uses network measures, which is a novel approach in ecology; and has a general focus because it analyses information on a wide geographical range. Therefore, it can be of interest for many researches.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: