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Title: Biodiversity conservation in the hyperdiverse, heterogeneous forests of the western Amazon
Authors: Socolar, Jacob Jacob
Advisors: Wilcove, David
Contributors: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department
Keywords: agriculture
beta diversity
primary forest
Subjects: Conservation biology
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Tropical nature is under increasing threat from agriculture, and a key question is to what extent diversified smallholder agriculture is compatible with biodiversity conservation. This dissertation examines the response of bird and tree communities to smallholder agriculture in northeastern Peru, home to the world’s richest terrestrial species assemblages. Despite evidence from elsewhere in the tropics that smallholder agriculture supports high levels of forest biodiversity, I show that these patterns do not generalize to western Amazonia, where superlative species richness is associated low-density populations of habitat-specialist species and remarkable compositional heterogeneity across space. In Chapter 1, I review how conservationist biology can use explicit measurements of compositional heterogeneity, or beta diversity, to generalize inference about biodiversity change from limited field measurements. In Chapter 2, I directly assess the conservation value of smallholder agriculture in northeast Peru using a field inventory of birds and trees. Converted examples of different forest habitat types fail to protect the specialist species unique to each habitat, and the resulting decline in beta diversity drives a substantial decline in overall regional diversity. In Chapter 3, I explicitly consider the responses of species that are specialized on poor-soil forest habitats and floodplain forest habitats. These groups show contrasting responses to smallholder agriculture: poor-soil specialists decline markedly, while floodplain specialists thrive. In Chapter 4, I place these results in a broader neotropical context. I show that neotropical bird communities, due their functional traits, are intrinsically more sensitive to agricultural disturbance in Amazonia than elsewhere in the neotropics. This difference might be evolutionarily linked to high species richness in Amazonian birds. In Chapter 5, I use the geological history of northeastern Peru to provide strong circumstantial evidence that numerous bird species with patchy populations in the region are connected by ongoing dispersal, suggesting that dispersal dynamics at large spatial scales might be important for metapopulation persistence. Taken together, these chapters reveal that western Amazonia’s hyperdiverse biota is unusually sensitive to agricultural disturbance, and large intact landscapes are likely crucial for maintaining the world’s richest species assemblages in the twenty-first century.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

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