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Restoring birds, bats, and dispersal mutualisms in a tropical, agricultural landscape

  • Author(s): Reid, John Leighton
  • Advisor(s): Holl, Karen
  • et al.
Abstract

Ecological restoration is an aggressive response to ongoing tropical deforestation, which continues to disarticulate the world's most diverse terrestrial communities, undermine rural livelihoods, and exacerbate anthropogenic climate change. Here I use three approaches to address the question: How and where can we best restore tropical biodiversity? I focus on birds and bats - important beneficiaries and benefactors of forest restoration - and on the restoration of degraded pastures in southern Costa Rica. First, I evaluate impacts of local restoration treatments and landscape context on bird communities in an replicated experiment. I find that high-intensity restoration plantings improve old-growth bird biodiversity and community attributes of three functional groups that mediate biotic barriers to forest succession. Restoration has the greatest capacity for conserving old-growth bird species when projects are situated within largely intact forested landscapes, suggesting that one means of safeguarding biodiversity through restoration could be to preferentially allocate funding to such regions. Second, I test the efficacy of artificial bat roosts as a novel strategy to accelerate forest recovery. The premise is that provisioning simulated tree cavities may attract bats into abandoned pastures where they will disperse seeds and create patches of regenerating vegetation. During a two-year study, bats rarely used roosts in pastures, and increased seed rain below roosts did not translate into increased seedling recruitment. This work underscores the general importance of addressing post-dispersal limitations on seedling recruitment in restoration. Third, I explicitly address the importance of human behavior by applying a conservation psychology approach to the question: Why do some Costa Ricans kill roosting bats? Using qualitative and quantitative methods, I find that bat killing is common among men in Coto Brus County and that natural history knowledge and negative experiences with vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) are important predictors of relevant beliefs about bat killing. These results suggest that environmental education and mitigation of damage to livestock by vampire bats are important components of regional bat conservation. Moreover, this conservation psychology approach is likely to be applicable to a wide range of conservation problems.

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