Record Details

de Luca, Juliana Ranzani;Pardini, Renata
Use of early and late successional forest patches by the endangered Lowland tapir Tapirus terrestris (Perissodactyla: Tapiridae)
Mammalian Biology
Journal Article
Atlantic Forest;Forest succession;Habitat selection;Optimal foraging;Ungulate browsers
Large herbivores play crucial ecological roles, affecting the structure and function of terrestrial ecosystems. Their effect, however, depend on how they select plants and vegetation patches for foraging. At the landscape scale, succession is one of the processes that should generate vegetation patches with different nutritional quality, affecting selection by herbivores. Earlier successional stages should be preferred as they are dominated by plants with nutritious and palatable leaves. Here, we investigate if the Lowland tapir prefers early compared to late successional forest patches, aiming at contributing to the understanding of the ecological role of the largest terrestrial South American herbivore, and to conservation strategies for this endangered species. We sampled 12 vegetation patches varying in successional stages across a 20.000-ha continuously-forested landscape in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, recording tapirs through standardized camera trap and track surveys, and quantifying vegetation structure and treefall gaps. Whereas the number of individuals using each patch was not influenced by successional stage, intensity of use was higher in patches in earlier successional stages, in particular patches with higher density of smaller trees and higher cover of treefall gaps. Although inferences on the effects of tapir on plant community depends on future, smaller-scale studies, our results suggest herbivory by tapirs affects forest regeneration, potentially contributing to the maintenance of plant diversity. Results also point out to the potential of mosaics encompassing old-growth and secondary forests for the conservation of the Lowland tapir.