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S33-5
Howler monkeys as mobile links in human-impacted landscapes

Thursday, 27 June 2013: 11:35
La Paz-A (Herradura San Jose)
Julieta Benitez Malvido , Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico
Diego A. Zárate , Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico
Ana Maria Gónzalez-DiPierro , Universidad Intercultural de Chiapas, Mexico
Ellen Andresen , Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico
Many tropical primates live in forests that have been transformed throughout anthropogenic disturbances. The folivorous-frugivorous howler monkeys (Alouatta spp.) prevail in disturbed forests due to the flexibility of their diet.  Their daily travel in search of leaves and fruits, coupled with a slow food gut passage rate favours the dispersal of the ingested seeds away from their source of origin.  In Southern Mexico, we followed groups of the black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra) inhabiting continuous forest, forest fragments, cacao plantations and riparian vegetation in cattle pastures. For each habitat we registered the tree species present and those consumed by howlers. We found that for all habitats the presence of howlers facilitates forest regeneration through seed dispersal across continuous forest and disturbed habitats. Sites occupied by howlers presented higher abundance and diversity of seeds and seedlings than those unoccupied by primates. Their ability to move throughout and across conserved and degraded lands facilitates plant colonization and/or forest regeneration and secondary succession. The disappearance of howlers from disturbed habitats may result in a further impoverishment of the flora, impacting the medium- and long-term recovery of the forest, especially of large-seeded tree species characteristic of old-growth tropical forests.