Species composition changes along environmental gradients and geographical space

What determines the species composition in a given area? This apparently simple question can be very hard to answer when ecologists cannot make experimental tests on biological communities. Using a termite metacommunity, we are studying how the species dispersal and environmental limitations interact to produce the observed patterns of species diversity in the Brazilian Amazonian Forest. Starting with a neutral model, we will integrate environmental information to estimate the probability of dispersal and survival for individuals among areas based on the distance and environmental similarities among sites.

Termite identification using spectrometry!

Termites comprehend a diverse group of insects on tropical forests. Just in a small area of the Amazonian forest, I found about 80 termite species. For some genera of even entire subfamilies, the identification to the species level can be harsh mostly when soldiers are not present on the samples. Recently, some studies have shown how powerful spectrometry is to identify plants and now we are about to test such methods for the termite identification. On the first semester of 2013, Renato Azevedo, an undergrad and a partner on this project, will be collecting the wavelengths frequencies for the first 150 colonies. Preliminary results showed 100% of the Cylindrotermes species properly identified using this method, just using workers!

Determinants of small-mammal diversity on the Brazilian Atlantic Forest

Many studies have hypothesized about how the species are distributed on the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Some studies rely on the Refugia zones to explain why some areas have endemic species and higher diversity while others try to associate current climate and environmental conditions to species distribution. In this project a group of Brazilian Mammalogists, Dr. Nilton Cáceres, Dr. Nick Gotelli, and me are comparing a set of possible hypothesis about the small-mammal distribution on the entire region to conclude about the most likely explanation for the species diversity patterns on the area. Our models include the environment and dispersive processes as well.

Distance to roads affects termite species composition by changing soil conditions and canopy structure

On this project we investigated how the environmental conditions (soil moisture and canopy openness) change as we go deeper inside the forests from the road margins. We then sampled termites from more than 50 species on the same areas and showed how the species composition and diversity change for each termite trophic group following this distance to the road gradient. The link for the paper can be accessed in CV.
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