Agricultural expansion is the largest threat to global biodiversity. In particular, the rapid spread of tree plantations is a primary driver of deforestation in hyperdiverse tropical regions. Plantations tend to support considerably lower biodiversity than native forest, but it remains unclear whether plantation traits affect their ability to sustain native wildlife populations, particularly for threatened taxa. If animal diversity varies across plantations with different characteristics, these traits could be manipulated to make plantations more "wildlife friendly." The degree to which plantations create edge effects that degrade habitat quality in adjacent forest also remains unclear, limiting our ability to predict wildlife persistence in mixed-use landscapes. We used systematic camera trapping to investigate mammal occurrence and diversity in oil palm plantations and adjacent forest in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Mammals within plantations were largely constrained to locations near native forest; the occurrence of most species and overall species richness declined abruptly with decreasing forest proximity from an estimated 14 species at the forest ecotone to -1 species 2 km into the plantation. Neither tree height nor canopy cover within plantations strongly affected mammal diversity or occurrence, suggesting that manipulating tree spacing or planting cycles might not make plantations more wildlife friendly. Plantations did not appear to generate strong edge effects; mammal richness within forest remained high and consistent up to the plantation ecotone. Our results suggest that land-sparing strategies, as opposed to efforts to make plantations more wildlife-friendly, are required for regional wildlife conservation in biodiverse tropical ecosystems.
Selective logging is the most prevalent land-use change in the tropics. Despite the resulting degradation of forest structure, selectively logged forests still harbor a substantial amount of biodiversity leading to suggestions that their protection is the next best alternative to conserving primary, old-growth forests. Restoring carbon stocks under Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) schemes is a potential method for obtaining funding to protect logged forests, via enrichment planting and liberation cutting of vines. This study investigates the impacts of restoring logged forests in Borneo on avian phylogenetic diversity, the total evolutionary history shared across all species within a community, and on functional diversity, with important implications for the protection of evolutionarily unique species and the provision of many ecosystem services. Overall and understorey avifaunal communities were studied using point count and mist netting surveys, respectively. Restoration caused a significant loss in phylogenetic diversity and MPD (mean pairwise distance) leaving an overall bird community of less total evolutionary history and more closely related species compared to unlogged forests, while the understorey bird community had MNTD (mean nearest taxon distance) that returned toward the lower levels found in a primary forest, indicating more closely related species pairs. The overall bird community experienced a significant loss of functional strategies and species with more specialized traits in restored forests compared to that of unlogged forests, which led to functional clustering in the community. Restoration also led to a reduction in functional richness and thus niches occupied in the understorey bird community compared to unlogged forests. While there are additional benefits of restoration for forest regeneration, carbon sequestration, future timber harvests, and potentially reduced threat of forest conversion, this must be weighed against the apparent loss of phylogenetic and functional diversity from unlogged forest levels, making the biodiversity-friendliness of carbon sequestration schemes questionable under future REDD+ agreements. To reduce perverse biodiversity outcomes, it is important to focus restoration only on the most degraded areas or at reduced intensity where breaks between regimes are incorporated.
A key driver of rain forest degradation is rampant commercial logging. Reduced-impact logging (RIL) techniques dramatically reduce residual damage to vegetation and soils, and they enhance the long-term economic viability of timber operations when compared to conventionally managed logging enterprises. Consequently, the application of RIL is increasing across the tropics, yet our knowledge of the potential for RIL also to reduce the negative impacts of logging on biodiversity is minimal. We compare the impacts of RIL on birds, leaf-litter ants, and dung beetles during a second logging rotation in Sabah, Borneo, with the impacts of conventional logging (CL) as well as with primary (unlogged) forest. Our study took place 1-8 years after the cessation of logging. The species richness and composition of RIL vs. CL forests were very similar for each taxonomic group. Both RIL and CL differed significantly from unlogged forests in terms of bird and ant species composition (although both retained a large number of the species found in unlogged forests), whereas the composition of dung beetle communities did not differ significantly among forest types. Our results show little difference in biodiversity between RIL and CL over the short-term. However, biodiversity benefits from RIL may accrue over longer time periods after the cessation of logging. We highlight a severe lack of studies investigating this possibility. Moreover, if RIL increases the economic value of selectively logged forests (e.g., via REDD+, a United Nations program: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries), it could help prevent them from being converted to agricultural plantations, which results in a tremendous loss of biodiversity.
We used the global fire detection record provided by the satellite-based Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to determine the number of fires detected inside 823 tropical and subtropical moist forest reserves and for contiguous buffer areas 5, 10, and 15 km wide. The ratio of fire detection densities (detections per square kilometer) inside reserves to their contiguous buffer areas provided an index of reserve effectiveness. Fire detection density was significantly lower inside reserves than in paired, contiguous buffer areas but varied by five orders of magnitude among reserves. The buffer: reserve detection ratio varied by up to four orders of magnitude among reserves within a single country, and median values varied by three orders of magnitude among countries. Reserves tended to be least effective at reducing fire frequency in many poorer countries and in countries beset by corruption. Countries with the most successful reserves include Costa Rica, Jamaica, Malaysia, and Taiwan and the Indonesian island of Java. Countries with the most problematic reserves include Cambodia, Guatemala, Paraguay, and Sierra Leone and the Indonesian portion of Borneo. We provide fire detection density for 3964 tropical and subtropical reserves and their buffer areas in the hope that these data will expedite further analyses that might lead to improved management of tropical reserves.
Strong global demand for tropical timber and agricultural products has driven large-scale logging and subsequent conversion of tropical forests. Given that the majority of tropical landscapes have been or will likely be logged, the protection of biodiversity within tropical forests thus depends on whether species can persist in these economically exploited lands, and if species cannot persist, whether we can protect enough primary forest from logging and conversion. However, our knowledge of the impact of logging and conversion on biodiversity is limited to a few taxa, often sampled in different locations with complex land-use histories, hampering attempts to plan cost-effective conservation strategies and to draw conclusions across taxa. Spanning a land-use gradient of primary forest, once- and twice-logged forests, and oil palm plantations, we used traditional sampling and DNA metabarcoding to compile an extensive data set in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo for nine vertebrate and invertebrate taxa to quantify the biological impacts of logging and oil palm, develop cost-effective methods of protecting biodiversity, and examine whether there is congruence in response among taxa. Logged forests retained high species richness, including, on average, 70% of species found in primary forest. In contrast, conversion to oil palm dramatically reduces species richness, with significantly fewer primary-forest species than found on logged forest transects for seven taxa. Using a systematic conservation planning analysis, we show that efficient protection of primary-forest species is achieved with land portfolios that include a large proportion of logged-forest plots. Protecting logged forests is thus a cost-effective method of protecting an ecologically and taxonomically diverse range of species, particularly when conservation budgets are limited. Six indicator groups (birds, leaf-litter ants, beetles, aerial hymenopterans, flies, and true bugs) proved to be consistently good predictors of the response of the other taxa to logging and oil palm. Our results confidently establish the high conservation value of logged forests and the low value of oil palm. Cross-taxon congruence in responses to disturbance also suggests that the practice of focusing on key indicator taxa yields important information of general biodiversity in studies of logging and oil palm.
Diversity responses to land-use change are poorly understood at local scales, hindering our ability to make forecasts and management recommendations at scales which are of practical relevance. A key barrier in this has been the underappreciation of grain-dependent diversity responses and the role that β-diversity (variation in community composition across space) plays in this. Decisions about the most effective spatial arrangement of conservation set-aside, for example high conservation value areas, have also neglected β-diversity, despite its role in determining the complementarity of sites. We examined local-scale mammalian species richness and β-diversity across old-growth forest, logged forest, and oil palm plantations in Borneo, using intensive camera- and live-trapping. For the first time, we were able to investigate diversity responses, as well as β-diversity, at multiple spatial grains, and across the whole terrestrial mammal community (large and small mammals); β-diversity was quantified by comparing observed β-diversity with that obtained under a null model, in order to control for sampling effects, and we refer to this as the β-diversity signal. Community responses to land use were grain dependent, with large mammals showing reduced richness in logged forest compared to old-growth forest at the grain of individual sampling points, but no change at the overall land-use level. Responses varied with species group, however, with small mammals increasing in richness at all grains in logged forest compared to old-growth forest. Both species groups were significantly depauperate in oil palm. Large mammal communities in old-growth forest became more heterogeneous at coarser spatial grains and small mammal communities became more homogeneous, while this pattern was reversed in logged forest. Both groups, however, showed a significant β-diversity signal at the finest grain in logged forest, likely due to logging-induced environmental heterogeneity. The β-diversity signal in oil palm was weak, but heterogeneity at the coarsest spatial grain was still evident, likely due to variation in landscape forest cover. Our findings suggest that the most effective spatial arrangement of set-aside will involve trade-offs between conserving large and small mammals. Greater consideration in the conservation and management of tropical landscapes needs to be given to β-diversity at a range of spatial grains.
Accurate estimation of tree biomass is necessary to provide realistic values of the carbon stored in the terrestrial biosphere. A recognized source of errors in tree aboveground biomass (AGB) estimation is introduced when individual tree height values (H) are not directly measured but estimated from diameter at breast height (DBH) using allometric equations. In this paper, we evaluate the performance of 12 alternative DBH : H equations and compare their effects on AGB estimation for three tropical forests that occur in contrasting climatic and altitudinal zones. We found that fitting a three-parameter Weibull function using data collected locally generated the lowest errors and bias in H estimation, and that equations fitted to these data were more accurate than equations with parameters derived from the literature. For computing AGB, the introduced error values differed notably among DBH : H allometric equations, and in most cases showed a clear bias that resulted in either over- or under-estimation of AGB. Fitting the three-parameter Weibull function minimized errors in AGB estimates in our study and we recommend its widespread adoption for carbon stock estimation. We conclude that many previous studies are likely to present biased estimates of AGB due to the method of H estimation.
The conservation of tropical forest carbon stocks offers the opportunity to curb climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and simultaneously conserve biodiversity. However, there has been considerable debate about the extent to which carbon stock conservation will provide benefits to biodiversity in part because whether forests that contain high carbon density in their aboveground biomass also contain high animal diversity is unknown. Here, we empirically examined medium to large bodied ground-dwelling mammal and bird (hereafter "wildlife") diversity and carbon stock levels within the tropics using camera trap and vegetation data from a pantropical network of sites. Specifically, we tested whether tropical forests that stored more carbon contained higher wildlife species richness, taxonomic diversity, and trait diversity. We found that carbon stocks were not a significant predictor for any of these three measures of diversity, which suggests that benefits for wildlife diversity will not be maximized unless wildlife diversity is explicitly taken into account; prioritizing carbon stocks alone will not necessarily meet biodiversity conservation goals. We recommend conservation planning that considers both objectives because there is the potential for more wildlife diversity and carbon stock conservation to be achieved for the same total budget if both objectives are pursued in tandem rather than independently. Tropical forests with low elevation variability and low tree density supported significantly higher wildlife diversity. These tropical forest characteristics may provide more affordable proxies of wildlife diversity for future multi-objective conservation planning when fine scale data on wildlife are lacking.
Vertebrate granivores destroy plant seeds, but whether animal-induced seed mortality alters plant recruitment varies with habitat context, seed traits, and among granivore species. An incomplete understanding of seed predation makes it difficult to predict how widespread extirpations of vertebrate granivores in tropical forests might affect tree communities, especially in the face of habitat disturbance. Many tropical forests are simultaneously affected by animal loss as well as habitat disturbance, but the consequences of each for forest regeneration are often studied separately or additively, and usually on a single plant demographic stage. The combined impacts of these threats could affect plant recruitment in ways that are not apparent when studied in isolation. We used wire cages to exclude large (elephants), medium, (sambar deer, bearded pigs, muntjac deer), and small (porcupines, chevrotains) ground-dwelling mammalian granivores and herbivores in logged and unlogged forests in Malaysian Borneo. We assessed the interaction between habitat disturbance (selective logging) and experimental defaunation on seed survival, germination, and seedling establishment in five dominant dipterocarp tree species spanning a 21-fold gradient in seed size. Granivore-induced seed mortality was consistently higher in logged forest. Germination of unpredated seeds was reduced in logged forest and in the absence of small to large-bodied mammals. Experimental defaunation increased germination and reduced seed removal but had little effect on seed survival. Seedling recruitment however, was more likely where logging and animal loss occurred together. The interacting effects of logging and hunting could therefore, actually increase seedling establishment, suggesting that the loss of mammals in disturbed forest could have important consequences for forest regeneration and composition.