South America (Ecuador)
These long-term studies examine the role of birds and primates as seed dispersers in the maintenance of tree diversity in West African and Neotropical rainforests. In West Africa, we are using data gathered at a remote field station (maintained by CTR and ECOFAC) in the Dja Reserve, (a UN designated Biosphere Reserve and West Africa’ s largest). CTR members have learned that just two species of Hornbills disperse the seeds of over 25% of the more than 300 tree species found in the reserve. Given the alarming population declines of other seed dispersers, particularly primates and elephant, this work is of enormous importance to conservation planning.
In Ecuador, we are studying the Long-wattled Umbrellabird (Cephalopterus penduliger) northwestern Chocó rainforests and Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao) in the Amazon basin. Both species are key dispersers of seeds within their home ranges, yet the role each plays in regeneration of degraded habitat and maintenance of primary forests are poorly known. These projects employ radio telemetry and detailed phenological data to quantify the basic biology of these little-known yet charismatic and ecologically vital species. Additionally, rainforest restoration projects using an experimental approach to restoration are currently being developed in Ecuador in conjunction with local and international NGOs. CTR is also developing proposals to expand this work to include comparative research in Equatorial Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and Gabon.