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  1. Abstract

    Anthropogenic pressures are causing the widespread loss of wildlife species and populations, with adverse consequences for ecosystem functioning. This phenomenon has been widely but inconsistently referred to as defaunation. A cohesive, quantitative framework for defining and evaluating defaunation is necessary for advancing biodiversity conservation. Likening defaunation to deforestation, we propose an operational framework for defaunation that defines it and related terms, situates defaunation relative to intact communities and faunal degradation, and encourages quantitative, ecologically reasonable, and equitable measurements. We distinguish between defaunation, the conversion of an ecosystem from having wild animals to not having wild animals, and faunal degradation, the process of losing animals or species from an animal community. The quantification of context-relevant defaunation boundaries or baselines is necessary to compare faunal communities over space and time. Situating a faunal community on the degradation curve can promote Global Biodiversity Framework targets, advancing the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity.

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  2. null (Ed.)
    Anthropogenic disturbances are changing the structure and composition of tropical forests worldwide. Multiple disturbances often occur simultaneously in forests: for example, hunting and logging are within-forest disturbances that impact vast areas of seemingly intact rainforests. Despite recent work on the individual effects of these disturbances, our understanding of how they interact to influence tree communities is still limited. In northern Republic of Congo, we explored the effects of hunting and logging on tree communities. Over an 8-year period, we monitored 12,552 tree stems (≥ 10 cm diameter-at-breast height) spread over 30 1-ha plots along a gradient of human disturbance to compare the tree diversity between hunted and logged forest, once-logged forest, and protected forest free of both disturbances. Tree density, species richness, and community composition were affected by both hunting and logging. Forest close to human settlements was richer, more heterogenous, and more dynamic in species composition across censuses. In hunted and logged forest, fast-growing secondary species with low shade tolerance replaced old growth species. Comparatively, the once-logged forest had the greatest stem density and intermediate species richness with an increased density of shade-bearing species over time. Both tree species spatial turnover and tree recruitment were greatly affected by proximity to human settlements. A shift towards abiotically dispersed trees and increasing seed predation by rodents near villages can partly explain the differences in tree recruitment across the forest types. The combination of hunting and logging seems to have a greater impact on tree communities than either single disturbance, especially with nearness to villages. 
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  3. By dispersing seeds long distances, large, fruit-eating animals influence plant population spread and community dynamics. After fruit consumption, animal gut passage time and movement determine seed dispersal patterns and distances. These, in turn, are influenced by extrinsic, environmental variables and intrinsic, individual-level variables. We simulated seed dispersal by forest elephants ( Loxodonta cyclotis ) by integrating gut passage data from wild elephants with movement data from 96 individuals. On average, elephants dispersed seeds 5.3 km, with 89% of seeds dispersed farther than 1 km. The longest simulated seed dispersal distance was 101 km, with an average maximum dispersal distance of 40.1 km. Seed dispersal distances varied among national parks, perhaps due to unmeasured environmental differences such as habitat heterogeneity and configuration, but not with human disturbance or habitat openness. On average, male elephants dispersed seeds farther than females. Elephant behavioral traits strongly influenced dispersal distances, with bold, exploratory elephants dispersing seeds 1.1 km farther than shy, idler elephants. Protection of forest elephants, particularly males and highly mobile, exploratory individuals, is critical to maintaining long distance seed dispersal services that shape plant communities and tropical forest habitat. 
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  4. Abstract

    Individual motivation for the rural use of common‐pool resources (CPRs) can be fluid, with the line between subsistence and commercial often unclear and in flux.

    Implications of fluid motivation are understudied yet important for social–ecological systems (SESs), such as bushmeat hunting throughout Central Africa that is essential to local protein/nutrition, income and culture.

    Making locally informative predictions of multiple SESs nested within a landscape‐scale SES has been historically difficult, but community‐driven participatory approaches provide new kinds and quantities of data, opening previously inaccessible doors for research and governance.

    We apply hierarchical Bayesian structural equation modelling to a novel dataset of 910 hunts from 111 gun and trap hunters across nine villages in Gabon, generated in a participatory process whereby hunters conducted GPS self‐follows in conjunction with paraecologist surveys of their motivation, behaviour and offtake. We (i) establish the human behaviour driving gun‐hunting and trapping success and predict its effect on offtake across villages and (ii) link fluid motivation of gun hunters to their behaviour, number of animals hunted, biomass yielded and income earned.

    Gun hunts across villages yielded more animals during the night than the day, and when hunters brought high amounts of ammunition and walked far distances from villages. Gun hunts were less successful when coupled with trapping while per‐hunt success of trapping itself was generally low and difficult to predict. Fluid gun hunters hunted fewer animals when motivated strictly by subsistence, despite no reduction in ammunition brought or distance walked, while offtake from strictly commercial versus mixed motivation was the same. Numbers of animals hunted, biomass and income were tightly linked. We discuss the implications of these results for the ecological sustainability of hunting and participatory forecasting in bushmeat research and policy.

    Read the freePlain Language Summaryfor this article on the Journal blog.

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  5. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  6. Blonder, Benjamin (Ed.)
  7. McConkey, Kim (Ed.)
    Abstract There is growing realization that intraspecific variation in seed dispersal can have important ecological and evolutionary consequences. However, we do not have a good understanding of the drivers or causes of intraspecific variation in dispersal, how strong an effect these drivers have, and how widespread they are across dispersal modes. As a first step to developing a better understanding, we present a broad, but not exhaustive, review of what is known about the drivers of intraspecific variation in seed dispersal, and what remains uncertain. We start by decomposing ‘drivers of intraspecific variation in seed dispersal’ into intrinsic drivers (i.e. variation in traits of individual plants) and extrinsic drivers (i.e. variation in ecological context). For intrinsic traits, we further decompose intraspecific variation into variation among individuals and variation of trait values within individuals. We then review our understanding of the major intrinsic and extrinsic drivers of intraspecific variation in seed dispersal, with an emphasis on variation among individuals. Crop size is the best-supported and best-understood intrinsic driver of variation across dispersal modes; overall, more seeds are dispersed as more seeds are produced, even in cases where per seed dispersal rates decline. Fruit/seed size is the second most widely studied intrinsic driver, and is also relevant to a broad range of seed dispersal modes. Remaining intrinsic drivers are poorly understood, and range from effects that are probably widespread, such as plant height, to drivers that are most likely sporadic, such as fruit or seed colour polymorphism. Primary extrinsic drivers of variation in seed dispersal include local environmental conditions and habitat structure. Finally, we present a selection of outstanding questions as a starting point to advance our understanding of individual variation in seed dispersal. 
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  8. Abstract The relationships that control seed production in trees are fundamental to understanding the evolution of forest species and their capacity to recover from increasing losses to drought, fire, and harvest. A synthesis of fecundity data from 714 species worldwide allowed us to examine hypotheses that are central to quantifying reproduction, a foundation for assessing fitness in forest trees. Four major findings emerged. First, seed production is not constrained by a strict trade-off between seed size and numbers. Instead, seed numbers vary over ten orders of magnitude, with species that invest in large seeds producing more seeds than expected from the 1:1 trade-off. Second, gymnosperms have lower seed production than angiosperms, potentially due to their extra investments in protective woody cones. Third, nutrient-demanding species, indicated by high foliar phosphorus concentrations, have low seed production. Finally, sensitivity of individual species to soil fertility varies widely, limiting the response of community seed production to fertility gradients. In combination, these findings can inform models of forest response that need to incorporate reproductive potential. 
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  9. McGlinn, Daniel (Ed.)