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Effects of fragmentation on morphological and evolutionary patterns of understory birds

Grant number: 22/15169-0
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Master
Effective date (Start): June 01, 2023
Effective date (End): May 31, 2025
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Ecology
Principal Investigator:Mauro Galetti Rodrigues
Grantee:Patricia dos Santos Ferreira
Host Institution: Instituto de Biociências (IB). Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP). Campus de Rio Claro. Rio Claro , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:21/10195-0 - Contribution of payment for ecosystem services on multi-dimensions within Atlantic Forest, AP.TEM


Changes in natural environments, generally caused by impacts of anthropic actions such as deforestation and changes in land use and occupation, can interfere with the habitat quality of species and cause genetically morphological changes (natural selection or genetic drift) that are determined by environmental effects and can influence ecological groups such as birds that interact with their environment, since morphological characters are important in the establishment and success of ecological interactions. One of the methods to observe these alterations is through indices such as the Fluctuating Asymmetry, which is a morphological alteration in bilateral characters caused by genetic and/or environmental stress, being widely used to measure the degree of stress and environmental quality in different environments. The aim of this project is to understand how fragmentation influences morphological diversity and asymmetry in several understory bird species in Atlantic Forest landscapes and to test the hypothesis of how these changes affect the evolutionary potential of these species. Thus, we will test how forest cover, functional connectivity, distance from the edge and the surrounding matrix (pasture, agriculture, forestry and forests) are modulating asymmetry in birds and morphological integration (evolutionary potential) between different species. We will test four hypotheses, namely A) that forest cover has a negative effect on floating asymmetry, where areas with more forests had lower rates of floating asymmetry; B) that functional connectivity presents a pattern similar to forest cover; C) that the distance to the edge of the forest will have a negative effect on the floating asymmetry, considering that in the interior of the forest the asymmetries will be smaller, and that close to the edges the asymmetries will be greater; and D) that the type of surrounding matrix (agriculture, forestry, pasture and forests) will also have an effect on the fluctuating asymmetry of understory birds. Birds will be captured with mist nets and the following morphometric measurements will be taken: wing, different beak and tarsi characters. To test the hypothesis that explanatory variables are influencing bird asymmetry, we will adjust linear and non-linear regression models using landscape metrics as predictor variables (forest cover, functional connectivity and distance from the edge, with fluctuating asymmetry being used as variable answer. In addition, we consider that the sensitivity of species to fragmentation, represented here by forest specialists or habitat generalists, will also modulate the patterns to be observed, in which more specialist species will have greater morphological differences between populations from different areas, and we will expect that populations from highly fragmented areas present a reduction in their evolutionary potential.

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