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Large mammals in an agroforestry mosaic in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date11/2012
JournalBiotropica
Journal number6
Volume44
Number of pages8
Pages818-825
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The forest-like characteristics of agroforestry systems create a unique opportunity to combine agricultural production with biodiversity conservation in human-modified tropical landscapes. The cacao-growing region in southern Bahia, Brazil, encompasses Atlantic forest remnants and large extensions of agroforests, locally known as cabrucas, and harbors several endemic large mammals. Based on the differences between cabrucas and forests, we hypothesized that: (1) non-native and non-arboreal mammals are more frequent, whereas exclusively arboreal and hunted mammals are less frequent in cabrucas than forests; (2) the two systems differ in mammal assemblage structure, but not in species richness; and (3) mammal assemblage structure is more variable among cabrucas than forests. We used camera-traps to sample mammals in nine pairs of cabruca-forest sites. The high conservation value of agroforests was supported by the presence of species of conservation concern in cabrucas, and similar species richness and composition between forests and cabrucas. Arboreal species were less frequently recorded, however, and a non-native and a terrestrial species adapted to open environments (Cerdocyon thous) were more frequently recorded in cabrucas. Factors that may overestimate the conservation value of cabrucas are: the high proportion of total forest cover in the study landscape, the impoverishment of large mammal fauna in forest, and uncertainty about the long-term maintenance of agroforestry systems. Our results highlight the importance of agroforests and forest remnants for providing connectivity in human-modified tropical forest landscapes, and the importance of controlling hunting and dogs to increase the value of agroforestry mosaics.