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Hands-on science to sustain Madagascar's resources and people

onja01Seed Dispersal of Large-Bodied Lemur Frugivores

Primary Investigator: Onja H. Razafindratsina

Seed dispersal by animals (zoochory) is a common mode of dispersal for many plant species worldwide, especially in tropical ecosystems. In the rainforest of Ranomafana National Park, in particular, a majority of plant species have traits adapted for zoochory. Using the diverse fauna and flora in RNP as a model system, Dr. Razafindratsima’s research seeks to provide new insights to advance the field of seed dispersal ecology, including the impacts of animals on plants – from the individual level to population and community levels, the implications of this plant-animal interaction on the ecology of both partners, and the consequences of losing animal seed dispersers on ecosystem health.

Dr. Razafindratsima has been studying the multi-faceted aspects of seed dispersal by three large-bodied lemur frugivores (red-bellied lemur, red-fronted lemur, and blackand-white ruffed lemur) in Ranomafana, since 2010 when she was a Ph.D. student at Rice University. She led a dedicated team of research technicians and local guides at Centre ValBio in Ranomafana along with Malagasy onja02university students in field expeditions aimed at collecting data on lemur feeding and defecating, which were combined with an investigation of the lemur movement patterns in several field sites within RNP and a set of experiments within the forest. Dr. Razafindratsima’s Ph.D.’s research demonstrated that nonrandom seed dispersal by lemur frugivores could positively affect plant populations, and structure the spatial associations and the interactions between plants within a community. From these perspectives, losing these large-bodied lemurs would influence vital ecosystem services to human well-being, such as a decrease of the forest’s potential to store carbon.

Dr. Razafindratsima currently teaches at the University of California, Berkeley in the Biology Department. Her research group plans to continue working on this important subject amidst the rainforests of Ranomafana.