One of the advantages you get from a long-term project in the same study area for more than a decade is that you can start observing if some of the actions you help to implement have some kind of benefits for the fauna and flora of the area. This post is about those anecdotic but important observations that surprise you when you visit an area for a long time.
It’s not only those observations of large capuchin monkey groups I mentioned in past posts (Monkey Forest Tales: Why black-capped capuchins move in big groups (> 10 individuals) in very fragmented areas?). It is also about the changes that we have observed after the landowners decided to fence the forest and set aside an area around the stream in front of the farmhouse.
When I first visit SR farm in 2004, near to the stream in front of the house, there were only two big Ceibas and a few other sparse trees. Nothing was blocking your sight from the pastures at the other side of the stream. However, in 2005, by suggestions of some students and colleagues, the landowners fenced the area and we plant some fruit trees. We planted fruit trees of species that we know monkeys used as food trees in a nearby forest fragment. The area set aside is not more than 1000 m2. The area was left alone so natural regeneration could occur.
After 14 years of natural regeneration and some initial planting, you can’t see the pastures at the other side of the stream from the farmhouse. Birds, monkeys and other small mammals had started to use it. And this also had generated a change in the animals observed in the last three years, in the forest fragments nearby.
Common guan pair’s, solitary and small groups of coatis as well as squirrels had been observed in forest fragments than 14 years ago didn’t visit. They never were extinct from the area but now they are more common and easy to see in forest fragments where they weren’t seen before.
It’s possible that not only the regenerating areas but also the decision of the landowners of let vegetation grow in wire fences as well as planting some living fences and their change from allowing hunting in their farms to ban it has allowed these species to come back.
In forest fragments present in other farms, where we had made few surveys, and which had secondary forest from different ages (10 – 30 years of regeneration), we had observed different mammal species using them. It seems the first ones to use these natural regenerating areas are small rodents, crab-eating foxes, giant anteaters and small birds who used open areas widely. In regenerating areas of 10 years you can also see black-capped capuchins and squirrel monkeys from time to time and it seems that some new form groups of dusky titi monkeys also use these areas as part of their home ranges. Howler monkeys seem to use these areas only after 15 – 20 years when bigger trees are present.
A new threat is emerging in the last two years, threatening the biodiversity in the area. Some of the farm dogs started to roam inside of the forest fragments and an increase of feral dogs had been observed by students and local workers. We had an increase in the number of domestic dog’s attacks on monkeys and other fauna. This new threat is something we need to start evaluating so we can give farmers in the area more tools to preserve the biodiversity they still have in their land.
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