October 15, 2013

No significant difference.

Often in science, researchers fear their results will not be statistically significant. People are afraid of 'negative' answers. I've always found this rather bizarre, because an answer is an answer, be it yes or no. Especially in science, a negative answer is just as important as an affirmative one – it's not the same as if the question hadn't been investigated in the first place.

Anyway, to stop myself before I ramble any further (before I am tempted to write an essay on great answers born from non-significant results)... I was actually glad to find that the results from my research in Payamino over the past year did not yield any statistically significant differences. Analyses of my field work data did not reveal any significant differences in mammal diversity between primary and secondary rainforest samples. I shall post about the results and conclusions at greater length some time, but for now I will just say what the results of this relatively small-scale study suggest: if mammal diversity (richness and composition) in the regenerated and man-modified areas of forest is the same to the diversity in mature old-growth forests, it would appear the hunting and agricultural practices of the indigenous community of Payamino is not having a major effect on it.

This is a nice and very optimistic answer. However, things are never that simple. This does not mean that human activity in the area – or even the traditional practices of the Payamino people – has no effect on the rainforest. Different types of animals are affected in very different ways, and my study only looked at strictly terrestrial medium to large mammalian fauna. Smaller animals – even smaller mammals – may be affected in very different ways; arboreal, volant, or aquatic animals may also be affected differently. Additionally, technical limitations and time constraints meant that my survey covered little over 20 km2.

Nonetheless, I am quite happy with the result, it's one tiny piece of a puzzle in place.

Ocelot, Leopardus pardalis, in a primary rainforest location, Payamino, Ecuador. © X O'Reilly, 2013

1 comment :

  1. I would guess that some are worried about which result will result in their paper getting a greater impact factor. This is an interesting result, and should influence the understanding of human-environmental interactions.

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