Mariano A. Rodriguez Cabal
MS student Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida
Location: Temperate forest, Patagonia, Argentina
Research: Habitat assessment for a threatened keystone marsupial in Patagonia
Species/Topic: Dromiciops gliroides
Abstract: Plant-animal mutualisms are essential interactions for maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. The disruption of these interactions may cascade through communities, increasing extinction rates of species directly or indirectly involved in these relationships. The temperate forest of South America has one of the highest numbers of endemic species registered for a temperate forest, and a large proportion of its flora depends on mutualistic animals. The northern portion of this forest harbors a unique keystone interaction comprised a hummingbird (Sephanoides sephaniodes), a mistletoe (Tristerix corymbosus), and the marsupial (Dromiciops gliroides) that support 20% of the woody flora. Reduction in abundance or distribution of any one of these three species has the potential to disrupt the integrity of this temperate forest. The purpose of this study is to identify the habitat variables that determine distribution and abundance of this marsupial so that potential anthropogenic impacts on this species can be assessed.