Human activities influence tropical forests worldwide, altering their form and composition, and in some cases, threatening their very existence. The reach of industrial scale logging, palm and rubber agriculture, and mining now extends to the most isolated areas. These activities and the hunting and poaching that follow threaten to transform the remaining primary tropical forests into a degraded mosaic, emptied of wildlife. The reduction in animal abundance is expected to interrupt plant-animal interactions, such as seed dispersal, seed and seedling predation, and herbivory. We study how changes in the animal community cascade to affect forest structure, composition and services through the modification or loss of ecological processes. In particular, we assess whether there are tipping points at which the composition or structure of the plant community might shift from one state to another or at which ecosystem services are diminished or lost.
In 2013 we started working from the Ipassa Research Center in northeastern Gabon to study ecological erosion. The first phase of the project consisted of quantifying animal abundances in the Ivindo National Park and the adjacent logging concessions and community forests to evaluate the effect of human activities on animal community structure. Now, in the second phase, we are conducting experiments to evaluate how human activities modify ecological processes and forest structure and composition. To date, this has included monitoring tree phenology and following seed dispersal patterns.
This project is made possible by the Ipassa Research Crew.
More details on this project are forthcoming...
Seed traps to collect fruits and seeds from the forest canopy.