The Brazilian Atlantic Forest is characterized by a tremendous biodiversity and provides vital ecosystem functions to more than half Brazil's population. Despite its great value, this forest is severely threatened with only about 11-16% of its original cover remaining. Several large-scale restoration initiatives are now being undertaken, but the scientific basis to fully exploit the potential of secondary forests in restoring biodiversity and ecosystem functioning is still largely lacking. One of the major gaps in our knowledge is the response of animals to Atlantic Forest regeneration. Studying birds seems particularly needed because of the diverse range of ecosystem functions that this taxon executes (e.g. seed dispersal and pollination agent), their mobility and ubiquity, which is why their presence is critical for plant colonization and regeneration. Despite the fact that effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on bird biodiversity have been studied quite intensively, our understanding of bird community recovery after Atlantic Forest regeneration as well as its consequences for ecosystem functioning is still limited. In this project, we will investigate how the recovery of ecosystem functions executed by birds occurs in secondary Atlantic Forest. The following specific research questions will be addressed: (i) How do avian ecosystem functions vary with spatial characteristics such as fragment size and connectivity, the proximity of continuous forest and the forest cover in the surrounding landscape? (ii) How are these functions affected by secondary forest age? (iii) To what extent does their recovery during secondary succession occur in a similar way as their degradation during forest fragmentation?
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: