The Science 4 Apes page lists description and links to scientific articles that are relevant to the conservation and welfare of apes.
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Bushmeat poaching reduces the seed dispersal and population
Ecological Applications, 19(4), 2009, pp. 854-863 2009 by the Ecological Society of America
Abstract. Myriad tropical vertebrates are threatened by overharvest. Whether this harvesthas indirect effects on nonhunted organisms that interact with the game species is a criticalquestion. Many tropical birds and mammals disperse seeds. Their overhunting in forests cancause zoochorous trees to suffer from reduced seed dispersal. Yet how these reductions in seeddispersal influence tree abundance and population dynamics remains unclear. Reproductiveparameters in long-lived organisms often have very low elasticities; indeed the demographicimportance of seed dispersal is an open question. We asked how variation in hunting pressureacross four national parks with seasonal forest in northern Thailand influenced the relativeabundance of gibbons, muntjac deer, and sambar deer, the sole dispersers of seeds of thecanopy tree Choerospondias axillaris. We quantified how variation in disperser numbersaffected C. axillaris seed dispersal and seedling abundance across the four parks. We then usedthese data in a structured population model based on vital rates measured in Khao YaiNational Park (where poaching pressure is minimal) to explore how variation in illegalhunting pressure might influence C. axillaris population growth and persistence. Densities ofthe mammals varied strongly across the parks, from relatively high in Khao Yai to essentiallyzero in Doi Suthep-Pui. Levels of C. axillaris seed dispersal and seedling abundance positivelytracked mammal density. If hunting in Khao Yai were to increase to the levels seen in theother parks, C. axillaris population growth rate would decline, but only slightly. Extinction ofC. axillaris is a real possibility, but may take many decades. Recent and ongoing extirpationsof vertebrates in many tropical forests could be creating an extinction debt for zoochoroustrees whose vulnerability is belied by their current abundance.
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