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Evaluation Begun on the Role Rare and Recently Recognized Gibbons Play in Their Environment

  The northern buff-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus annamensis)
was first described in 2010. Photo by Jackson Frechette

Jackson Frechette and Kathryn Sieving

Since June, I [Jackson] have been working on my dissertation project, “The effects of crested gibbon (Nomascus annamensis) seed dispersal patterns on tree regeneration,” in the Veun Sai–Siem Pang Conservation Area, 55,000 ha managed by Conservation International and the Cambodian Forestry Administration in a remote part of northeastern Cambodia. I have been working with local ethnic minority researchers and one American volunteer (who hopes to go to graduate school) to understand the importance of northern buffed-cheek crested gibbons to trees. This is a new gibbon species that was described in 2010 using acoustic and genetic data. I am looking at seed dispersal patterns of these gibbons and how those patterns may be important for trees to regenerate. To do this, I quantified the gibbon seed dispersal pattern by mapping where every seed of a particular tree (Microcos paniculata) was defecated. Then, using that pattern, I planted 9,000 seeds of that tree, mimicking the gibbon pattern, a bird dispersal pattern (which I quantified as well), and a pattern where all the seeds just fall beneath the fruiting trees. The purpose of this is to test if there is a difference in seed germination between these dispersal patterns.

This research explicitly tests the often theorized impact one primate species has on the patterns of seed dispersal and seed survival in its environment. The results will provide information on the importance of this endangered gibbon to tree regeneration and ecosystem health. I have been training local people on how to conduct research and to be interpretive guides for gibbon-centered community-based tourism. Increasing the local capacity develops sustainable alternatives to hunting and logging, reducing pressure on the community’s natural resources.

  Jackson (on the far left) with his team in Cambodia.
Photo by Cheb Chanton-CI Staff

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