Saturday, January 16, 2021

Large mammals make soil more fertile in tropical forests


News Release 15-Jan-2021
A study conducted by scientists at São Paulo State University demonstrates that animals like peccaries and tapirs boost soil levels of nitrogen, an essential element to plant growth.
Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo


The White-lipped peccary Tayassu pecari is a boar-like hoofed mammal found throughout Central and South America. These animals roam the forest in bands of 50 to 100 individuals, eating a wide variety of foods. In Brazil's Atlantic Rainforest, they prefer the fruit of the jussara palm Euterpe edulis.

The jussara is very abundant in this biome, probably thanks to vast amounts of dung, urine, and soil trampling by peccaries as well as tapirs (Tapirus terrestris) and other fruit-eating animals, or frugivores. This behavior releases forms of nitrogen, a key element in plant growth.

A study supported by São Paulo Research Foundation - FAPESP and published in the journal Functional Ecology showed that in areas free of these frugivores the level of ammonium, a form of nitrogen in soil, was up to 95% lower. The findings evidence for the first time the importance of these animals to the nitrogen cycle and serve as yet another warning of the ecosystem losses caused when large mammals disappear from tropical forests.


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