Community structure and diversity of tropical forest mammals: data from a global camera trap network

The first global camera trap mammal study has documented 105 species in nearly 52,000 images, from seven protected areas across the Americas, Africa and Asia. The photographs reveal an amazing variety of animals in their most candid moments — from a minute mouse to the enormous African elephant, plus gorillas, cougars, giant anteaters and — surprisingly — even tourists and poachers.

Analysis of the photographic data has helped scientists confirm a key conclusion that until now, was understood through uncoordinated local study: habitat loss and smaller reserves have a direct and detrimental impact on the diversity and survival of mammal populations. Impacts are seen in the form of less diversity of species and less variety of body sizes and diets (smaller animals and insectivores are the first to disappear), among others. This information replicated over time and space is crucial to understand the effects of global and regional threats on forest mammals and anticipate extinctions before it is too late.

The results of the study have been published in the article "Community structure and diversity of tropical mammals: data from a global camera trap network", in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. The study was led by Dr. Jorge Ahumada, ecologist with the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network at Conservation International. Protected areas in Brazil, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Laos, Suriname, Tanzania and Uganda were researched, making this not only the first global camera trap mammal study, but also the largest camera trap study of any class of animals (not just mammals).

PRESS RELEASE: 52,000 Photos from Groundbreaking Camera Trap Study Offer First Global View of Declining Mammal Populations


Terrestrial mammals are a key component of tropical forest communities as indicators of ecosystem health and providers of important ecosystem services. However, there is little quantitative information about how they change with local, regional and global threats. In this paper, the first standardized pantropical forest terrestrial mammal community study, we examine several aspects of terrestrial mammal species and community diversity (species richness, species diversity, evenness, dominance, functional diversity and community structure) at seven sites around the globe using a single standardized camera trapping methodology approach. The sites — located in Uganda, Tanzania, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Suriname, Brazil and Costa Rica — are surrounded by different landscape configurations, from continuous forests to highly fragmented forests. We obtained more than 51,000 images and detected 105 species of mammals with a total sampling effort of 12,687 camera trap days. We find that mammal communities from highly fragmented sites have lower species richness, species diversity, functional diversity and higher dominance when compared with sites in partially fragmented and continuous forest. We emphasize the importance of standardized camera trapping approaches for obtaining baselines for monitoring forest mammal communities so as to adequately understand the effect of global, regional and local threats and appropriately inform conservation actions.


Ahumada, J., et al., "Community structure and diversity of tropical forest mammals: data from a global camera trap network", Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 27 September 2011, vol. 366, no. 1578, 2703-2711. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0115

South America; Africa; Asia Photography; Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network   Camera Trap; Biodiversity; Forests