Ecological implications of animal personalities
All animals are not equal: even individuals of the same species display a striking variety of consistent behavioral tendencies. Particular individuals differ in their aggressiveness, tendency to explore their surroundings, risk-taking during foraging, propensity to seek or avoid companions, and many other behavioral traits. Researchers refer to this phenomenon as “animal personalities”. Our objective is to examine how animal personalities influence ecological processes such as space use and seed dispersal: if a single species consists of individuals that differ in their personalities, it might function like multiple species, with diverse interactions and ecological impacts.
Effects of mast years on animal populations and communities
Mast seeding is the intermittent, synchronized production of large seed crops. As a consequence of this phenomenon, in some years there is more food in forests than animals can eat, but in other years there are little or no food resources. Both feast and famine create domino effects that cascade through food webs. Thus, mast seeding provides an opportunity to investigate the type and strength of interactions among forest species under dramatically different environmental conditions.
Biotic interactions and plant regeneration
Most studies on processes that shape plant populations and communities focus on direct effects of the physical environment on plant performance and competition. While we have known for a long time that animals can mediate bottom-up effects, this influence is often overlooked – particularly when the animals in question are cryptic, like insects or rodents, rather than large like ungulates. Our research addresses this gap: we examine how interactions with animals influence tree recruitment and how this influence changes with environmental conditions.