From Tigers to Trees: Ecological Cascades in Southeast Asian Rainforests

Abstract:

Species interactions structure ecosystems and regulate populations, such as herbivores being limited by predation and competition for food. A notable example is the wolves’ importance in maintaining Yellowstone’s food webs. I will first present research on why apex predators are less important to structuring tropical rainforest food webs in Asia. Then, I will describe how high rates of hunting and oil palm expansion are differentially impacting Asia’s wildlife species. Altered animal assemblages produce ‘cascading effects’ on plant communities. The second half of my talk will focus on dramatic longterm shifts in the primary forest tree communities of Thailand, Malaysia and Borneo and the role wildlife plays in explaining these changes. Finally, I’ll look into the future and predict how climate change may fundamentally alter ecosystem regulating processes in Asia.

Biography:

Matthew has spent 10 years working in Southeast Asia’s most pristine rainforests as a National Geographic Society explorer. He is currently a research fellow with the Smithsonian Institution and based in Singapore. He obtained his PhD from UC Berkeley in Environmental Science, Policy and Management in 2016. More information about Matthew and his work is available on his website: www.ecologicalcascades.com