Terrestrial mammal communities in Tropical rainforests of Ecuador

  • Daniel Lopez Martinez

Student thesis: Master of Philosophy


This is the first study focused on terrestrial mammal community structure carried out in the San José de Payamino community in the Sumaco National Park (Ecuador). This Amazonian Kichwa community at San José de Payamino has a low population density and they have been extracting resources since they settled in the area almost forty years ago. Over time, hunting and timber extraction techniques and equipment have developed, increasing land transformation and fragmentation from intact mature rainforest towards the production of crops (or chakras). In addition, recent oil prospecting activities using explosives have been conducted across the entire community lands, which may have influenced natural communities.In order to describe the local terrestrial mammal community, a survey was conducted using both a camera trapping system (1777 trapping nights) and line transects between March - June 2015. A portion of the collected data was used to compare Payamino to one of the most biodiverse terrestrial regions in the World, the Yasuní National Park. This region is located just 125km away from the sampled area and although it currently remains an intact area, recent oil extractions supported by the national government potentially caused terrible damage to the native species. A study undertaken by Blake et al. (2012) allowed me to compare both regions in order to: 1) quantify how disturbed the terrestrial mammal community in San José de Payamino might be; and, 2) give an idea of the importance of maintaining Yasuní National Park unaltered in the face of continued pressure for development.First chapter, although it showed similar biodiversity levels among camera trap records (suggesting a lack of human disturbance), many species presented alterations on their abundances. Results in the second chapter, based on a comparison between Payamino and Tiputini, show species richness and relative abundances differed significantly, with Tiputini sustaining a more diverse and homogenously distributed community than Payamino. These evident differences in community structure (abundances and composition) were most probably driven by the lack of top-predators in Payamino, rather than by a direct effect of the hunting pressure. I also found a clear shift in animal activity patterns in Payamino towards more nocturnal behaviour (most probably to avoid human presence) and lower elative abundances within predator-guild species. These results suggest that we may be seeing the beginning of a Mesopredator Release Effect in Payamino. The author concluded continuous human disturbances (oil explorations, hunting pressure and land conversion) must have an effect in Payamino terrestrial community. Although wild populations suffer from temporal natural fluctuations (in abundance and diversity), the fact that both locations have similar environmental conditions suggests terrestrial mammal communities should be more similar than they are. Therefore, long-term studies are needed to exclude possible alterations produced by seasonal variations in community structure. At the same time, it will assure a more detailed quantification of human disturbance effects.
Date of Award31 Dec 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRichard Preziosi (Supervisor) & Jennifer Rowntree (Supervisor)


  • Neotropical rainforest
  • camera trap
  • population structure
  • conservation
  • terrestrial mammal

Cite this