Project properties

Title How did the megafaunal collapse in South America affect tree species composition?
Group Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group
Project type thesis
Credits 24-36
Supervisor(s) FEM group: dr. MT (Masha) van der Sande
Other organisation: dr. Marco Raczka (University of Reading, UK)
Examiner(s) Prof. Dr. L (Lourens) Poorter
Contact info
Begin date 2021/09/01
End date
Description Also possible as Internship

At the end of the Pleistocene, around 12,000 y ago, many large animal species went extinct in South America. Although the causes of this big extinction event remain debated, it likely had great consequences for the vegetation composition. Many tree species that were adapted to the presence of large herbivores, for example by having large seeds to be dispersed by large herbivores, may have declined in abundance after the extinction event. However, other species, such as tree species with bird-dispersed seeds, may have increased in abundance due to less competition from species with megafauna-dispersed seeds. In this thesis, you will assess these hypotheses, by evaluating changes in the abundance of different tree taxa before and after the extinction events using published fossil pollen records. These records contain information on the fossil pollen of different tree taxa, as a measure of their changes in abundance through time. These data can then be linked to information on seed dispersal, seed size, fruit type and other traits potentially relevant for explaining abundance changes in relation to the megafaunal collapse.

Keywords: Amazon fires, tropical dry forest, Bolivia, forest resilience, forest recovery, climate change

[Climate change effects /Biodiversity and functional diversity/ Population and forest dynamics/ Forest restoration and succession/ America's/ Tropical zone]
Used skills Data collection, R software or other statistical tools
Requirements FEM-30306 Forest Ecology and Forest Management; REG-31806 Ecological Methods I