Dr. Beth Kaplin, core faculty in the Department of Environmental Studies at (AUNE), and Jahdiel Tores Caba, an AUNE master’s student in Environmental Studies, each gave a talk about their research at Frugivory and Seed Dispersal (FSD) 2015, an international conference hosted by University of KwaZulu-Natal. The conference took place in Drakensburg, South Africa, from June 21 to June 26, 2015.
Dr. Kaplin discussed research on frugivory and seed dispersal in tropical forests which explored how matrix affects ecological processes such as seed dispersal. According to the abstract, the research team’s hypothesis was that soft or low contrast matrix types will better support ecological processes and biodiversity than hard, high contrast matrix. Research was conducted in Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda, in the Albertine Rift, a biodiversity hotspot over a 12 month period. Ultimately, the findings demonstrated how land use around tropical forests affects seed dispersal processes and forest composition, and how matrix can contribute to ecological integrity in systems facing increasing pressures from human land use in the surrounding matrix.
Caba discussed research about the role of introduced rats as seed dispersers and predators. Invasive species are known to cause significant threats to biodiversity, especially on island ecosystems. According to the abstract, in La Olimpia Forest in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, a secondary subtropical wet forest, the role of introduced black rats in the dispersal of Sierra palm seeds was studied. The results suggest that dispersal and predation are occurring as an interaction between black rats and the seeds of native Sierra palm in this forest. Through these interactions, rats are probably influencing the distribution of this native palm and the forest communities in Puerto Rico. By understanding such interactions strategic management efforts can be planned for native plant species and the maintenance of ecological processes.
For more information on FSD 2015, visit: