Chapter 4: An Arboreal Marsupial as an Indicator of Forest Degradation
Published:24 Jun 2022
F. E. Fontúrbel and J. I. Orellana, in Marsupial and Placental Mammal Species in Environmental Risk Assessment Strategies, ed. M. L. Larramendy and G. Liwszyc, The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2022, ch. 4, pp. 65-80.
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Land-use change is one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss worldwide, involving habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation processes. While fragmentation affects habitat quantity, degradation affects habitat quality. Therefore, forest degradation is critical for many animal species, but assessing its consequences is a challenging task as this process is affected by other confounding factors. Here we propose a practical framework for assessing forest degradation using an arboreal marsupial species as an indicator, but we can easily extrapolate it to other species with similar life-history traits. Dromiciops gliroides is a relict arboreal marsupial that inhabits the temperate rainforests of southern South America, playing a major role as a seed disperser. Despite its resilience, we know that its abundance, activity, and interaction rates with fleshy-fruited plants are affected by habitat degradation, making it an excellent environmental indicator. Our indicator proposal lies in two fundamental pillars: a theoretical framework of biological homogenization due to land-use change, and a practical framework based on camera-trap monitoring. We also propose to make data generated open access and feed a virtuous circle of information that continually improves our indicators.