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Ecol Lett. 2013 May;16(5):687-94. doi: 10.1111/ele.12102. Epub 2013 Mar 12.

Consequences of defaunation for a tropical tree community.

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Key Laboratory of Biodiversity and Biogeography, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650201, Yunnan, China.


Hunting affects a considerably greater area of the tropical forest biome than deforestation and logging combined. Often even large remote protected areas are depleted of a substantial proportion of their vertebrate fauna. However, understanding of the long-term ecological consequences of defaunation in tropical forests remains poor. Using tree census data from a large-scale plot monitored over a 15-year period since the approximate onset of intense hunting, we provide a comprehensive assessment of the immediate consequences of defaunation for a tropical tree community. Our data strongly suggest that over-hunting has engendered pervasive changes in tree population spatial structure and dynamics, leading to a consistent decline in local tree diversity over time. However, we do not find any support for suggestions that over-hunting reduces above-ground biomass or biomass accumulation rate in this forest. To maintain critical ecosystem processes in tropical forests increased efforts are required to protect and restore wildlife populations.

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