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Social and ecological dimensions of incorporating tree cover into fragmented tropical landscapes

Lehnert, Savannah Lamar (2021) Social and ecological dimensions of incorporating tree cover into fragmented tropical landscapes. Masters thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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In the tropics, increased pressure on arable and semi-arable land for commodity production is driving deforestation and the intensification of farming practices. As a result, tropical landscapes are becoming increasingly fragmented, leading to a decline in biodiversity and the robustness of ecosystem services. Because rural livelihoods often depend directly on functioning ecosystems, it is critical to ensure that agricultural areas continue to deliver ecosystem services to rural communities. This thesis research examines how trees can be incorporated into the agricultural matrix in rural Costa Rica, in order to promote the ecosystem service of seed dispersal and the values and preferences of rural landowners. I found that key fruit functional groups are important to the maintenance of seed dispersal networks and to large-bodied frugivore species. The identity of important fruit functional groups changed along a gradient of tree cover. For example, purple berries are particularly important in areas of low tree cover, whereas cecropia is particularly important in areas of high and intermediate tree cover. Furthermore, I found that seed dispersal networks in areas of intermediate tree cover are the most robust against further tree cover loss, due to the sheer size of the network. These findings help to inform our social science research, which suggests that landowners are highly amenable to having large tree configurations that support ecosystem services such as habitat provisioning, watershed protection, and seed dispersal. While landowner preference for tree spatial configurations and species compositions may inform regional landscape design, conservation programs will ultimately have to address factors that limit tree cover incorporation onto private property, such as limited space and limited financial resources.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: agroecology; forest loss; landscape design; large frugivores; neotropics; seed dispersal; Tropical ecology; Costa Rica
Subjects: Q Science > QK Botany
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences > School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability
Date Deposited: 02 Mar 2022 17:40
Last Modified: 02 Mar 2022 17:40
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5785

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