Defaunation and trophic cascading in the Anthropocene: ecological erosion in the tropics

Status: This talk is in preparation - details may change

OCTF seminar followed by drinks – all welcome.  Booking required.

Speaker:  Ana Benitez, Juan de la Cierva-Incorporación Postdoctoral Fellow, The Integrative Ecology Group, Estación Biológica de Doñana (CSIC)

Tropical forests are increasingly degraded by industrial logging, urbanization, agriculture and infrastructure, with only 20% of the remaining area considered intact. However, this figure does not include other, more cryptic but pervasive forms of degradation, such as overhunting. In this seminar Ana will discuss how to quantify and map the spatial patterns of mammal defaunation in the tropics using empirical data on mammal abundance declines from local hunting studies. She will also argue how, according to our projections, half of (seemingly) intact tropical forests are partially devoid of large mammals, and how forest coverage alone is not necessarily indicative of ecosystem intactness. She will finish the seminar discussing how changes in communities of mutualists (seed dispersers) and antagonists (seed predators and herbivores) result in altered patterns of fruit removal, seed dispersal, seed predation, seedling establishment and sapling survival (i.e.: forest regeneration). By identifying bottlenecks along the whole plant cycle, she aims to derive tailored conservation measures to revert the loss of carbon storage capacity in tropical forest ecosystems.

ANA BENÍTEZ-LÓPEZ is a postdoctoral researcher with broad interests in in spatial ecology, macroecology, biodiversity conservation and global change biology. Her research focuses on the factors that determine species distributions and abundance, and how these may be disrupted by anthropogenic drivers. Her main scientific achievements include incorporating complex meta-analytical and predictive models to study the effect of global change drivers on species abundance patterns across large scales. Currently she holds a Juan de la Cierva-Incorporación postdoctoral grant (2019-2021) at Jordano’s lab (Integrative Ecology Group) at the Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC). Here her main project aims at quantifying the ecological consequences of defaunation in the ecosystem functioning of tropical forests.