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Can mammals thrive near urban areas in the Neotropics? Characterizing the community of a reclaimed tropical forest


Mammals figure prominently in tropical ecology because of their role in seed dispersal, herbivore control, and nutrient cycling. Urbanization is a conservation concern for mammals not only because of lost habitat, but also other negative impacts such as illegal hunting and pollution. Some mammals are resilient to urbanization and can persist in degraded habitats; however, this has not been studied in many tropical sites. We used camera traps to study mammals in Peperpot Nature Park (PNP), a secondary forest located 5 km from the capital of Suriname, and compared it to the large Central Suriname Nature Reserve (CSNR). We found fewer species in PNP (20) compared to CSNR (30), however, PNP included apex predators and species of conservation concern, and the two sites had a similar relative abundance of large cats and most mesocarnivores. Smaller mammal species had higher relative abundance at PNP while larger herbivores were scarce or absent, likely from poaching, as PNP is still connected to interior forests. The detection models revealed that the park, the camera trap was set in, was the most common significant factor for most species, suggesting that broader landscape level effects are important. In occupancy models, the null model was the most common top model across species, but then followed by park. Despite fewer species being detected than in large protected areas, the presence of some species in PNP which are historically absent in developed areas shows promise for small urban tropical forests to support robust mammal communities, provided they maintain some connectivity to larger source habitats.

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We thank Sara Fernandes, Michael Fede, Anne Premchand, Fabian Lingaard, Fabriella Nain, Rachel Tsie Foen, Natasha Fernandes, Johnny Fernandes, and Emiliano Mohabir for deploying camera traps, Rebecca Sears for photo uploads, and Arielle Parsons and Michael Cove for input on data analyses. This project was generously supported by the Peperpot Foundation and WWF-Guianas.

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Correspondence to Stephanie Schuttler.

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Schuttler, S., Ramcharan, S., Boone, H. et al. Can mammals thrive near urban areas in the Neotropics? Characterizing the community of a reclaimed tropical forest. Trop Ecol 62, 174–185 (2021).

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  • Camera traps
  • Neotropical forest
  • Occupancy modelling
  • Secondary forest
  • Suriname
  • Urbanization