skip to main content

Title: Movement ecology of vulnerable lowland tapirs between areas of varying human disturbance
Abstract Background

Animal movement is a key ecological process that is tightly coupled to local environmental conditions. While agriculture, urbanisation, and transportation infrastructure are critical to human socio-economic improvement, these have spurred substantial changes in animal movement across the globe with potential impacts on fitness and survival. Notably, however, human disturbance can have differential effects across species, and responses to human activities are thus largely taxa and context specific. As human disturbance is only expected to worsen over the next decade it is critical to better understand how species respond to human disturbance in order to develop effective, case-specific conservation strategies.


Here, we use an extensive telemetry dataset collected over 22 years to fill a critical knowledge gap in the movement ecology of lowland tapirs (Tapirus terrestris) across areas of varying human disturbance within three biomes in southern Brazil: the Pantanal, Cerrado, and Atlantic Forest.


From these data we found that the mean home range size across all monitored tapirs was 8.31 km2(95% CI 6.53–10.42), with no evidence that home range sizes differed between sexes nor age groups. Interestingly, although the Atlantic Forest, Cerrado, and Pantanal vary substantially in habitat composition, levels of human disturbance, and tapir population densities, we found that lowland more » tapir movement behaviour and space use were consistent across all three biomes. Human disturbance also had no detectable effect on lowland tapir movement. Lowland tapirs living in the most altered habitats we monitored exhibited movement behaviour that was comparable to that of tapirs living in a near pristine environment.


Contrary to our expectations, although we observed individual variability in lowland tapir space use and movement, human impacts on the landscape also had no measurable effect on their movement. Lowland tapir movement behaviour thus appears to exhibit very little phenotypic plasticity in response to human disturbance. Crucially, the lack of any detectable response to anthropogenic disturbance suggests that human modified habitats risk being ecological traps for tapirs and this information should be factored into conservation actions and species management aimed towards protecting lowland tapir populations.

« less
; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Movement Ecology
Springer Science + Business Media
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract. Over the past decade, Brazil has experienced severe droughts across its territory, with important implications for soil moisture dynamics. Soil moisture variability has a direct impact on agriculture, water security and ecosystem services. Nevertheless, there is currently little information on how soil moisture across different biomes responds to drought. In this study, we used satellite soil moisture data from the European Space Agency, from 2009 to 2015, to analyze differences in soil moisture responses to drought for each biome of Brazil: Amazon, Atlantic Forest, Caatinga, Cerrado, Pampa and Pantanal. We found an overall soil moisture decline of −0.5 % yr−1 (p<0.01) at the national level. At the biome level, Caatinga presented the most severe soil moisture decline (−4.4 % yr−1), whereas the Atlantic Forest and Cerrado biomes showed no significant trend. The Amazon biome showed no trend but had a sharp reduction of soil moisture from 2013 to 2015. In contrast, the Pampa and Pantanal biomes presented a positive trend (1.6 % yr−1 and 4.3 % yr−1, respectively). These trends are consistent with vegetation productivity trends across each biome. This information provides insights into drought risk reduction and soil conservation activities to minimize the impact of drought in the most vulnerable biomes. Furthermore, improving our understanding of soil moisture trends during periodsmore »of drought is crucial to enhance the national drought early warning system and develop customized strategies for adaptation to climate change in each biome.« less
  2. Abstract Background

    Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) are a highly migratory species ranging along continental and insular coastlines of the Atlantic Ocean. Due to their importance to regional recreational and sport fisheries, research has been focused on large-scale movement patterns of reproductively active adults in areas where they are of high economic value. As a consequence, geographically restricted focus on adults has left significant gaps in our understanding of tarpon biology and their movements, especially for juveniles in remote locations where they are common. Our study focused on small-scale patterns of movement and habitat use of juvenile tarpon using acoustic telemetry in a small bay in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.


    Four juvenile tarpon (80–95 cm FL) were tracked from September 2015 to February 2018, while an additional eight juveniles (61–94 cm FL) left the study area within 2 days after tagging and were not included in analysis. Four tarpon had > 78% residency and average activity space of 0.76 km2(range 0.08–1.17 km2) within Brewers Bay (1.8 km2). Their vertical distribution was < 18 m depth with occasional movements to deeper water. Activity was greater during day compared to night, with peaks during crepuscular periods. During the day tarpon used different parts of the bay with consistent overlap aroundmore »the St. Thomas airport runway and at night tarpon typically remained in a small shallow lagoon. However, when temperatures in the lagoon exceeded 30 °C, tarpon moved to cooler, deeper waters outside the lagoon.


    Our results, although limited to only four individuals, provide new baseline data on the movement ecology of juvenile Atlantic tarpon. We showed that juvenile tarpon had high residency within a small bay and relatively stable non-overlapping daytime home ranges, except when seasonally abundant food sources were present. Fine-scale acoustic tracking showed the effects of environmental conditions (i.e., elevated seawater temperature) on tarpon movement and habitat use. These observations highlight the need for more extensive studies of juvenile tarpon across a broader range of their distribution, and compare the similarities and differences in behavior among various size classes of individuals from small juveniles to reproductively mature adults.

    « less
  3. Documenting the ways in which organisms physically move through space and the influences of habitat structure on their movement and posture are fundamental to understanding their spatial ecology. Movement ecology is thus a significant influence on animal cognition, morphology, diet, group structure, etc. Evidence to date demonstrates that orangutans of different species (Pongo abelii, P. wurmbii) living in similar habitats exhibit positional behavior more similar to each other than to conspecifics in disparate habitats. Therefore, it is a reasonable hypothesis that orangutan positional behavior is a function of habitat rather than morphological constraints. Here, we test this hypothesis by examining the positional behavior of orangutans living in Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, a primary forest mosaic composed of seven distinct habitats. We use 33,358 instantaneous scan samples collected every 5 minutes during full day follows of habituated adult orangutans (N=27) to examine postural behavior, locomotor modes, and structure use with a null hypothesis of no differences in positional behavior or support use profiles between habitats. We found significant differences in the profiles of orangutan postural behavior (G=216.2, p<0.001), locomotor behavior (G=45.34, p<0.001), and support use (G=137.8, p<0.001) in 5 distinct habitats within Gunung Palung National Park. Orangutansmore »within the same population move through and use distinct habitats in different ways. This underscores the role of local ecology in structuring organisms’ space use as well as the importance of behavioral plasticity to primates’ movement ecology. Funding: National Science Foundation (BCS-1638823, BCS-0936199); National Geographic Society; US Fish and Wildlife (F15AP00812, F12AP00369, 98210-8-G661); Leakey Foundation; Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund; Wenner-Gren Foundation; Nacey-Maggioncalda Foundation« less
  4. Background

    Fungal endophytes inhabit symptomless, living tissues of all major plant lineages to form one of earth’s most prevalent groups of symbionts. Many reproduce from senesced and/or decomposing leaves and can produce extracellular leaf-degrading enzymes, blurring the line between symbiotrophy and saprotrophy. To better understand the endophyte–saprotroph continuum we compared fungal communities and functional traits of focal strains isolated from living leaves to those isolated from leaves after senescence and decomposition, with a focus on foliage of woody plants in five biogeographic provinces ranging from tundra to subtropical scrub forest.


    We cultured fungi from the interior of surface-sterilized leaves that were living at the time of sampling (i.e., endophytes), leaves that were dead and were retained in plant canopies (dead leaf fungi, DLF), and fallen leaves (leaf litter fungi, LLF) from 3–4 species of woody plants in each of five sites in North America. Our sampling encompassed 18 plant species representing two families of Pinophyta and five families of Angiospermae. Diversity and composition of fungal communities within and among leaf life stages, hosts, and sites were compared using ITS-partial LSU rDNA data. We evaluated substrate use and enzyme activity by a subset of fungi isolated only from living tissues vs. fungi isolatedmore »only from non-living leaves.


    Across the diverse biomes and plant taxa surveyed here, culturable fungi from living leaves were isolated less frequently and were less diverse than those isolated from non-living leaves. Fungal communities in living leaves also differed detectably in composition from communities in dead leaves and leaf litter within focal sites and host taxa, regardless of differential weighting of rare and abundant fungi. All focal isolates grew on cellulose, lignin, and pectin as sole carbon sources, but none displayed ligninolytic or pectinolytic activityin vitro. Cellulolytic activity differed among fungal classes. Within Dothideomycetes, activity differed significantly between fungi from living vs. non-living leaves, but such differences were not observed in Sordariomycetes.


    Although some fungi with endophytic life stages clearly persist for periods of time in leaves after senescence and incorporation into leaf litter, our sampling across diverse biomes and host lineages detected consistent differences between fungal assemblages in living vs. non-living leaves, reflecting incursion by fungi from the leaf exterior after leaf death and as leaves begin to decompose. However, fungi found only in living leaves do not differ consistently in cellulolytic activity from those fungi detected thus far only in dead leaves. Future analyses should consider Basidiomycota in addition to the Ascomycota fungi evaluated here, and should explore more dimensions of functional traits and persistence to further define the endophytism-to-saprotrophy continuum.

    « less
  5. Global cropland expansion over the last century caused widespread habitat loss and degradation. Establishment of protected areas aims to counteract the loss of habitats and to slow species extinctions. However, many protected areas also include high levels of habitat disturbance and conversion for uses such as cropland. Understanding where and why this occurs may realign conservation priorities and inform protected area policy in light of competing priorities such as food security. Here, we use our global synthesis cropland dataset to quantify cropland in protected areas globally and assess their relationship to conservation aims and socio-environmental context. We estimate that cropland occupies 1.4 million km2or 6% of global protected area. Cropland occurs across all protected area management types, with 22% occurring in strictly protected areas. Cropland inside protected areas is more prevalent in countries with higher population density, lower income inequality, and with higher agricultural suitability of protected lands. While this phenomenon is dominant in midnorthern latitudes, areas of cropland in protected areas of the tropics and subtropics may present greater trade-offs due to higher levels of both biodiversity and food insecurity. Although area-based targets are prominent in biodiversity goal-setting, our results show that they can mask persistent anthropogenic land usesmore »detrimental to native ecosystem conservation. To ensure the long-term efficacy of protected areas, post-2020 goal setting must link aims for biodiversity and human health and improve monitoring of conservation outcomes in cropland-impacted protected areas.

    « less