Estación Biológica Cocha Cashu
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Effects of Heterogeneous Landscapes on Habitat Selection, Dispersal, and Population Dynamics of Tropical Small Mammals

Principal Investigator: Harald Beck-King, PhD candidate, University of Miami

A focus within ecology is to understand the spatial and temporal distribution of individuals in heterogeneous landscapes. Tropical rain forests offers a unique opportunity to study habitat selection by small mammals. High plant diversity in these forests provides a variety of habitats for mammals. Also high mammal diversity could lead to increased competition which favors habitat selection. I will test two alternative models of habitat selection, ideal free and ideal despotic distribution, and their associated dispersal patterns for small mammals that inhabit resource rich treefall gaps and the potentially less suitable understory. In 1994 a storm at Cocha Cashu biological station, Peru, created numerous gaps of different sizes but identical ages, providing a natural experiment to test these two models. A two year trapping program coupled with radio telemetry will enable me to assess fitness components within and movement between these two habitats in three species of small mammals. In addition, food supplementation experiments will determine whether food is a major factor for habitat selection. Results of this study will be of interest to evolutionary ecologists, and may have implications for conservation and management of small mammals in forest reserves.