The hyperabundant pigs had dramatic effects on the natural forest vegetation structure and diversity. Pigs preferentially select saplings of the dominant and ecologically important Dipterocarpaceae for nest building Ickes et al. Yet, tree species have differential ability to regenerate following snapping; the dominant dipterocarps have particularly poor regrowth rates Ickes et al. Thus, the ecological release of feral pigs in Pasoh, due to a combination of artificial food inputs i.
In Gunung Palung National Park in Borneo, recruitment of the dominant dipterocarp canopy trees collapsed during the s, purportedly due, in part, to release of vertebrate seed predators Curran et al. However, forest fragmentation due to logging and human-induced wildfires has reduced the extent and intensity of the mast fruiting events; and masting events at Pasoh Forest Reserve in Malaysia also have been highly variable in recent years, for unknown reasons S. Wright, pers. Nonetheless, vertebrate seed predators including bearded pigs, Sus barbatus ; primates, rodents, and birds and seed predation increased dramatically in , particularly in logged and degraded land Curran et al.
At Lago Guri in Venezuela, herbivorous howler monkeys Alouatta seniculus , common iguanas Iguana iguana , and leaf-cutter ants Acromyrmex spp.
Though leaf-cutter ants are clearly not mesoherbivores, this example demonstrates the magnitude of the effects herbivores can have on tropical forest plant communities. Indeed, birds maintained territories 3 to 5 times smaller on islands with abundant howler monkeys than on the adjacent mainland Terborgh et al. While the herbivore hyperdensities are commonly attributed to the absence of all large and mid-sized predators from the islands Terborgh et al.
In each of the previous examples, hyperabundant mesoherbivores were shown to have dramatic, cascading consequences on the rainforest plant communities, yet release from predation may have accounted only in part for the altered herbivore densities. Sherry, pers.
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This suggests that peccary densities are consistent across the station and thus not dependent on food inputs or experiencing a refuge effect, leaving release from predation a likely driver of the current high peccary densities Michel et al. The question of whether collared peccaries at La Selva are over- or hyperabundant is under debate, and accurate current density estimates are greatly needed. Michel, pers.
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It also exceeds reported densities of 9. Known peccary densities elsewhere in Central America are all lower High-density peccaries at La Selva consume Seedling abundances of 30 focal species in exclosures versus controls were significantly different, presumably due to differences in seed predation pressures and herbivory rates A.
Wendt et al. Peccaries have also reduced woody and herbaceous stem density, canopy cover, and vine and liana density and cover at La Selva based on mammal exclosures , Fig. This research suggests that the hyperabundant collared peccaries at La Selva are having dramatic effects on understory, and even canopy, vegetation. This is particularly troubling, given that vines and lianas provide important foraging and nesting substrate for many organisms, including understory insectivorous birds, a guild that has experienced significant declines at both La Selva and BCI over the past 40 years Sigel et al.
Understory vegetation density at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica, is lower in areas exposed to collared peccaries left than within experimental peccary exclosures right; photos by Nicole L.
It is clear from this review that fragmentation-induced trophic cascades are having catastrophic impacts on tropical forests worldwide. Regardless of whether mesoherbivores are increasing due to the loss of large predators, over-protection in some ecological reserves e. However clear the solution, its implementation is far from simple for many reasons:. Large predators have large home ranges and are highly edge-sensitive.
In Central America, female jaguars have home range sizes of This far exceeds the size of most Central American forest reserves. Tigers, with a female home range size of Many tropical forests are found in countries with limited funds to protect and effectively manage forest reserves Bruner et al.
The corruption endemic to many national governments in tropical regions further complicates matters Wright et al. Even in Costa Rica and Panama, two of the wealthiest International Monetary Fund, and least corrupt Transparency International, countries in Central America, poaching is endemic.http://www.cantinesanpancrazio.it/components/mihutizu/745-s5-vs.php
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In Costa Rica, poaching continues to affect vertebrates such as white-lipped peccaries even in the relatively well-protected Corcovado National Park Carrillo et al. Many people in tropical countries rely upon hunting for either their own subsistence or to trade for food and other necessities Corlett, If patrolling forest reserves effectively limits hunting, many neighboring people would need other means of support.
This could result in increased slash-and-burn agriculture with its concomitant negative effects on tropical biodiversity Naughton-Treves et al. Many scientists and conservationists argue that simply setting aside land in forest reserves is sufficient to preserve biodiversity, regardless of connectivity or management e. Yet, others argue that connectivity, i. Furthermore, adequate protection needs to be instituted and continued monitoring of predator and herbivore populations, perhaps using a Footprint index de Thoisy et al.
We need better information on all the consequences, both long- and short-term, of human-altered mesoherbivore abundances on native tropical forest communities. There is an urgent need for better information and models on how altered trophic dynamics, especially mesoherbivore abundances, will be affected by other global phenomena, especially climate destabilization. Finally, it is essential to determine the effectiveness of various conservation actions, in order to determine which techniques can best prevent a mass extinction of tropical biodiversity Brooks et al.
The authors thank S.
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