Monkey Forest Tales: Importance of edge plants for food for all monkeys species

Unamas - SR Enero 2012 212

Black-capped capuchins eating arthropods from branches of a Schefflera morotonini tree at a forest fragment edge.

Today’s post will explore the importance of edge plants as food for monkey species in the study area. One of the main effects of fragmentation is the creation of forest edges, a series of conditions that differs from the center of the forest in terms of light, humidity, plant species, temperatures, therefore affecting the use of those areas for monkeys species and in general for all animals in an area.

Some species can be more or less tolerant of those edge conditions and use it in different ways and intensities. In the case of the monkey’s species living in the forest fragments of the study area. The use of these areas for monkey’s daily activities varies with the season and it depends strongly on the plant species producing fruits in those areas.

For example, when species of plants from the Melastomataceae family (nispero (Bellucia grossularoides), Miconia spp.) and other species such as Tapirira guianensis, Protium sp., Cecropia spp, produce fruits, the use of forest edges increase for all the monkey’s species. In the case of Colombian squirrel monkeys the use of forest edges reached up to 26 % of their time in some months and for the endemic species of dusky titi monkeys, the preference for forest edges has also been associated with the use of plant species typical from this areas.

Another factor that can influence the use of forest edges by the monkey’s species in the study area is the proposed increase of arthropods abundance that forest edges can have. Arthropods are used by many monkeys as food in the area.

Probably, the most important factor is that the plant species common on forest edges which are consumed by monkeys are also the same species that appear in the earlier stages of natural regeneration in the study area, locally and at a more regional level. These are especially important if connectivity projects want to be implemented.

At the moment, in the region, most of the projects in which reforestation is proposed are based on non-native species and where native species are used, no information about species useful for native fauna is used as a baseline for those projects. Information about the species used by the native fauna on forest edge condition is useful as those plants usually are adapted to more light, higher temperatures and lower humidity typical or forest edges as well as more open areas. Additionally, these plant species can also be used for silvopastoral and agroecosystems where pastures plots include tree species of fast-growing capability as the ones present on forest edges. The use of edge plant species on reforestation projects as well as in silvopastoral systems can increase the value of those areas for biodiversity as they will provide more resources to the fauna passing through and using those areas.

Forest edges plants are not only important for the monkeys but to other fauna in the region, who also use it as nesting sites, food source as well as predation grounds in the case of small hawks, owls and eagles, that use forest edges as perch sites to hunt. Due to the high density of lianas and vines on many forest edges in the region, those are also sites used by giant anteaters to rest, hiding places for foxes as well as deers, especially when young animals need to be hide while their mothers feed in the open pastures and savannas. Less conspicuous species as crab-eater racons and armadillos also used those areas to hide and search for food.

Edge plants as the ones mentioned above are also the first to appear at natural regenerating areas, which increase their diversity and benefit to native fauna when it is left to progress in abandoned pasture and agricultural plots. Although forest edges had an effect on the native fauna and evidently have less biodiversity than areas inside of large forests. Their importance and use as tools in natural regeneration and reforestation programs have been poorly acknowledged and can be of great importance in the study region, where a dynamic of deforestation and natural regeneration is still present in some areas, depending on social and politic conditions.

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Saimiri cassiquiarensis albigena

A Colombian squirrel male searching for arthropods at a forest fragment edge.

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