Down by the riverside: Riparian edge effects on three monkey species in a fragmented Costa Rican forest

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Rivers represent natural edges in forests, serving as transition zones between landscapes. Natural edge effects are important to study to understand how intrinsic habitat variations affect wildlife as well as the impact of human-induced forest fragmentation. We examined the influence of riparian and anthropogenic edge on mantled howler, white-faced capuchin, Central American spider monkeys, and vegetation structure at La Suerte Biological Research Station (abbreviated as LSBRS), Costa Rica. We predicted lower monkey encounter rate, tree species richness, and median dbh at both edge types compared to interior and that monkeys would show species-specific responses to edge based on size and diet. We expected large, folivorous–frugivorous howler monkeys and small, generalist capuchins would be found at increased density in forest edge, while large, frugivorous spider monkeys would be found at decreased density in forest edge. We conducted population and vegetation surveys along interior, riparian, and anthropogenic edge transects at LSBRS and used GLMM to compare vegetation and monkey encounter rate. Tree species richness and median dbh were higher in forest interior than anthropogenic edge zones. Although spider monkey encounter rate did not vary between forest edges and interior, howler monkeys were encountered at highest density in riparian edge, while capuchins were encountered at highest density in anthropogenic edge. Our results indicate that diverse forest edges have varying effects on biota. Vegetation was negatively affected by forest edges, while monkey species showed species-specific edge preferences. Our findings suggest that riparian zones should be prioritized for conservation in Neotropical forests. Abstract in Spanish is available with online material.

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