The Tapir as a Forest Ecosystem Engineer in the Southern Yungas Forests in Argentina

Maria Luz Thomann

he project focuses on the crucial role of the tapir (Tapirus terrestris) as an engineer of forest ecosystems in the forests of the southern Yungas, specifically in the El Rey National Park (PNER) located in the central portion of the Argentine Yungas. Forest regeneration is essential for the stability and sustainability of ecosystems and seed dispersal, a key process in this regard, is carried out by animals such as the tapir.

This project arises from the need to fully understand the function of the tapir as a seed disperser, in particular, its impact on seed size and therefore, on forest regeneration. This study is motivated by the lack of detailed information about this process, especially in relation to seed size. In addition, we highlight the importance of the extinction of the tapir in the extreme south of the Yungas, which could affect the population dynamics of certain plants.


The main objective of the project is to generate empirical evidence to predict the ecological and evolutionary consequences of selection patterns by the tapir. This will contribute to the understanding of the stability of dispersal mutualisms and ecosystem services and will help to propose appropriate conservation actions. To achieve this, field sampling activities, laboratory work and data analysis will be carried out over the course of a year.

Additionally, the project seeks to create a tapir distribution map in the PNER area, which will be crucial to focus conservation efforts on critical areas. It is also intended to identify from an ecological and evolutionary perspective the key plant species in the tapir's diet, as well as analyse the variation in the size of fruits and seeds consumed. Environmental education will be an integral part of the project, with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of the tapir as an ecosystem engineer and encouraging the participation of local communities in its conservation.

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