C3 Development and validation of functional indicators for avian seed dispersal.
PI(s) for this project:
Prof. Katrin Boehning-Gaese
Human-induced global change calls for a worldwide monitoring of biodiversity and ecosystem functions. To date, monitoring programs of biodiversity indicators have been established for different taxonomic groups and habitats. However, these indicator systems have not quantified the pivotal interactions among species within communities and thus fail to measure the functionality of ecosystems. In this proposal, we aim at developing a prototype for structural and functional monitoring of frugivorous bird and fruiting plant diversity and avian seed dispersal, an important bird-mediated ecosystem function. We will implement and test functional and structural indicators in mountain rainforest and Tumbesian dry forest in South Ecuador. We will employ artificial fruits to assess the impact of human disturbance on avian seed-dispersal networks by comparing pecking rates on artificial fruits of different size and colour between continuous near-natural forests and human-disturbed forests. We will validate the reliability of the functional indicator system by comparing experimental networks to real-world seed- dispersal networks. At the same sites, we will assess species richness and trait diversity of frugivorous bird and fruiting plant communities. Functional monitoring of avian seed dispersal and structural monitoring of bird and fruit communities will be integrated to deliver predictions of avian seed-dispersal functions at the scale of entire plant communities. With this project, we seek to implement a reliable indicator system for avian seed dispersal that can be applied as a prototype for ecosystem function monitoring in research platforms worldwide.