Francisco E. Fontúrbel
Organization: Universidad de Chile
Research: Effects of habitat degradation on the monitor del monte and its consequences on the seed dispersal interaction with an endemic mistletoe
Abstract: Dromiciops gliroides is an endemic marsupial of the Chilean temperate rainforest, and the only living Microbiotheriid. This species is an important seed disperser for many plants, but it is the sole disperser of the mistletoe Tristerix corymbosus, which provides food resources for other species, including pollinating birds. Anthropic habitat degradation is significantly transforming native habitats, but less attention has given to its consequences on natural populations and its ecological interactions. I propose to examine such consequences at three levels: on D. gliroides populations, on the magnitude of the seed dispersal interaction with T. corymbosus, and on the selective forces that the disperser exerts on the plant. This research is driven by three hypotheses:Â 1) D. gliroidesabundances are lower at degraded forests, 2) D. gliroides removes less T. corymbosus fruits at degraded forests, and 3) Habitat degradation will change the significance and direction of the selection gradients on fruit traits.