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Document Type

Dissertation

Department

Biology

First Advisor's Name

Maureen A. Donnelly

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Zhenmin Chen

Third Advisor's Name

Evelyn E. Gaiser

Fourth Advisor's Name

Steven F. Oberbauer

Fifth Advisor's Name

Kyle Summers

Keywords

animal ecology, beta diversity, habitat filtering, species sorting, tropical forest, western Amazonia

Date of Defense

4-17-2009

Abstract

Biological diversity is threatened worldwide and it is a priority to generate more information that can be used both for understanding ecological processes and determining conservation strategies. For my dissertation, I focused on amphibian diversity patterns in lowland rainforests of southwestern Amazonia to evaluate the importance of habitat heterogeneity in the region. My main purpose was to test the hypothesis that amphibian communities in different forest types differ in species richness, composition, and abundance. I used standardized visual encounter surveys to quantify the species composition and abundance of amphibians at four sites, each containing four forest types (floodplain, terra firme, bamboo, and palm swamp). I used leaf-litter plots to evaluate the effect of soil and leaf-litter characteristics on species richness and abundance of leaf-litter frogs. I intensively sampled at one site and then sampled three other sites (distance among sites varied 3.5-105 km) to evaluate whether the patterns observed at one site were similar elsewhere. I also updated the information on threatened and potentially threatened amphibians in Peru and my study region. I found that no species appears to have experienced population declines in southeastern Peru, suggesting that the region still contains the original species pool. My results support the hypothesis that amphibian communities differ across forest types and that patterns observed at the local scale (one site) are similar at the regional scale (four sites). My data also indicate that there is no correlation between species composition and geographic distance among sites. Instead, an important proportion of the gamma diversity is represented by habitat-related beta diversity. My leaf-litter plot data showed that part of the variation in the leaf-litter community structure is explained by soil and litter characteristics. I found that soil total phosphorus and, to a lesser extent, humidity, leaf-litter mass, and pH is linked to species presence/absence and abundance. My study provides the first standardized, quantitative comparison of amphibian community structure across four major forest types in southwestern Amazonia and highlights the fact that forest types are complementary and necessary for maintaining high species richness in the region.

Identifier

FI09080301

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