TITLE

Do Ground-Dwelling Vertebrates Promote Diversity in a Neotropical Forest? Results from a Long-Term Exclosure Experiment

AUTHOR(S)
KURTEN, ERIN L.; CARSON, WALTER P.
PUB. DATE
September 2015
SOURCE
BioScience;9/1/2015, Vol. 65 Issue 9, p862
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
Using a decade-long exclosure experiment in Panama, we tested the hypothesis that ground-dwelling vertebrate herbivores and seed predators are crucial determinants of tropical tree diversity and abundance within the understory. Our exclosure experiment is a community-level test of the Janzen-Connell hypothesis. Therefore, we predicted that vertebrate exclusion would (a) increase plant densities and (b) lower richness, diversity, and evenness. Excluding vertebrates caused a 38%-46% increase in plant densities, which, in contrast to our predictions, caused species richness to increase by 12%-15%. Because vertebrate exclusion causes plant species richness to increase, not decrease, vertebrates are unlikely to be causal agents of Janzen-Connell effects. We synthesized this and previous studies to explore why plant richness responds differently to defaunation and exclosures in tropical forests worldwide. Likely because of their contrasting effects on mesoconsumers, defaunation and exclosures cause decreases and increases in plant density respectively, which in turn cause corresponding changes in richness.
ACCESSION #
109482432

 

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