Sea-level rise (SLR) due to global warming will result in the loss of many coastal areas. The direct or primary effects due to inundation and erosion from SLR are currently being assessed; however, the indirect or secondary ecological effects, such as changes caused by the displacement of human populations, have not been previously evaluated. We examined the potential ecological consequences of future SLR on >1,200 islands in the Southeast Asian and the Pacific region. Using three SLR scenarios (1, 3, and 6 m elevation, where 1 m approximates most predictions by the end of this century), we assessed the consequences of primary and secondary SLR effects from human displacement on habitat availability and distributions of selected mammal species. We estimate that between 3-32% of the coastal zone of these islands could be lost from primary effects, and consequently 8-52 million people would become SLR refugees. Assuming that inundated urban and intensive agricultural areas will be relocated with an equal area of habitat loss in the hinterland, we project that secondary SLR effects can lead to an equal or even higher percent range loss than primary effects for at least 10-18% of the sample mammals in a moderate range loss scenario and for 22-46% in a maximum range loss scenario. In addition, we found some species to be more vulnerable to secondary than primary effects. Finally, we found high spatial variation in vulnerability: species on islands in Oceania are more vulnerable to primary SLR effects, whereas species on islands in Indo-Malaysia, with potentially 7-48 million SLR refugees, are more vulnerable to secondary effects. Our findings show that primary and secondary SLR effects can have enormous consequences for human inhabitants and island biodiversity, and that both need to be incorporated into ecological risk assessment, conservation, and regional planning.
Planted forests are increasing in many upland regions worldwide, but knowledge about their potential effects on algal communities of catchment lakes is relatively unknown. Here, the effects of afforestation were investigated using palaeolimnology at six upland lake sites in the north-west of Ireland subject to different extents of forest plantation cover (4-64% of catchment area). (210) Pb-dated sediment cores were analysed for carotenoid pigments from algae, stable isotopes of bulk carbon (δ(13) C) and nitrogen (δ(15) N), and C/N ratios. In lakes with >50% of their catchment area covered by plantations, there were two- to sixfold increases in pigments from cryptophytes (alloxanthin) and significant but lower increases (39-116%) in those from colonial cyanobacteria (canthaxanthin), but no response from biomarkers of total algal abundance (β-carotene). In contrast, lakes in catchments with <20% afforestation exhibited no consistent response to forestry practices, although all lakes exhibited fluctuations in pigments and geochemical variables due to peat cutting and upland grazing prior to forest plantation. Taken together, patterns suggest that increases in cyanobacteria and cryptophyte abundance reflect a combination of mineral and nutrient enrichment associated with forest fertilization and organic matter influx which may have facilitated growth of mixotrophic taxa. This study demonstrates that planted forests can alter the abundance and community structure of algae in upland humic lakes of Ireland and Northern Ireland, despite long histories of prior catchment disturbance.
Pristine tropical peat swamp forests (PSFs) represent a unique wetland ecosystem of distinctive hydrology which support unique biodiversity and globally significant stores of soil carbon. Yet in Indonesia and Malaysia, home to 56% of the world's tropical peatland, they are subject to considerable developmental pressures, including widespread drainage to support agricultural needs. In this article, we review the ecology behind the functioning and ecosystem services provided by PSFs, with a particular focus on hydrological processes as well as the role of the forest itself in maintaining those services. Drawing on this, we review the suitability of current policy frameworks and consider the efficacy of their implementation. We suggest that policies in Malaysia and Indonesia are often based around the narrative of oil palm and other major monocrops as drivers of prosperity and development. However, we also argue that this narrative is also being supported by a priori claims concerning the possibility of sustainability of peat swamp exploitation via drainage-based agriculture through the adherence to best management practices. We discuss how this limits their efficacy, uptake and the political will towards enforcement. Further, we consider how both narratives (prosperity and sustainability) clearly exclude important considerations concerning the ecosystem value of tropical PSFs which are dependent on their unimpacted hydrology. Current research clearly shows that the actual debate should be focused not on how to develop drainage-based plantations sustainably, but on whether the sustainable conversion to drainage-based systems is possible at all.
Remote sensing is revolutionizing the way we study forests, and recent technological advances mean we are now able - for the first time - to identify and measure the crown dimensions of individual trees from airborne imagery. Yet to make full use of these data for quantifying forest carbon stocks and dynamics, a new generation of allometric tools which have tree height and crown size at their centre are needed. Here, we compile a global database of 108753 trees for which stem diameter, height and crown diameter have all been measured, including 2395 trees harvested to measure aboveground biomass. Using this database, we develop general allometric models for estimating both the diameter and aboveground biomass of trees from attributes which can be remotely sensed - specifically height and crown diameter. We show that tree height and crown diameter jointly quantify the aboveground biomass of individual trees and find that a single equation predicts stem diameter from these two variables across the world's forests. These new allometric models provide an intuitive way of integrating remote sensing imagery into large-scale forest monitoring programmes and will be of key importance for parameterizing the next generation of dynamic vegetation models.
Precipitation patterns are changing across the globe causing more severe and frequent drought for many forest ecosystems. Although research has focused on the resistance of tree populations and communities to these novel precipitation regimes, resilience of forests is also contingent on recovery following drought, which remains poorly understood, especially in aseasonal tropical forests. We used rainfall exclusion shelters to manipulate the interannual frequency of drought for diverse seedling communities in a tropical forest and assessed resistance, recovery and resilience of seedling growth and mortality relative to everwet conditions. We found seedlings exposed to recurrent periods of drought altered their growth rates throughout the year relative to seedlings in everwet conditions. During drought periods, seedlings grew slower than seedlings in everwet conditions (i.e., resistance phase) while compensating with faster growth after drought (i.e., recovery phase). However, the response to frequent drought was species dependent as some species grew significantly slower with frequent drought relative to everwet conditions while others grew faster with frequent drought due to overcompensating growth during the recovery phase. In contrast, mortality was unrelated to rainfall conditions and instead correlated with differences in light. Intra-annual plasticity of growth and increased annual growth of some species led to an overall maintenance of growth rates of tropical seedling communities in response to more frequent drought. These results suggest these communities can potentially adapt to predicted climate change scenarios and that plasticity in the growth of species, and not solely changes in mortality rates among species, may contribute to shifts in community composition under drought.
Ephemeral wetlands in arid regions are often degraded or destroyed through poor land-use practice long before they are ever studied or prioritized for conservation. Climate change will likely also have implications for these ecosystems given forecast changes in rainfall patterns in many arid environments. Here, we present a conceptual diagram showing typical and modified ephemeral wetlands in agricultural landscapes and how modification impacts on species diversity and composition.
Tropical rainforests are subject to extensive degradation by commercial selective logging. Despite pervasive changes to forest structure, selectively logged forests represent vital refugia for global biodiversity. The ability of these forests to buffer temperature-sensitive species from climate warming will be an important determinant of their future conservation value, although this topic remains largely unexplored. Thermal buffering potential is broadly determined by: (i) the difference between the "macroclimate" (climate at a local scale, m to ha) and the "microclimate" (climate at a fine-scale, mm to m, that is distinct from the macroclimate); (ii) thermal stability of microclimates (e.g. variation in daily temperatures); and (iii) the availability of microclimates to organisms. We compared these metrics in undisturbed primary forest and intensively logged forest on Borneo, using thermal images to capture cool microclimates on the surface of the forest floor, and information from dataloggers placed inside deadwood, tree holes and leaf litter. Although major differences in forest structure remained 9-12 years after repeated selective logging, we found that logging activity had very little effect on thermal buffering, in terms of macroclimate and microclimate temperatures, and the overall availability of microclimates. For 1°C warming in the macroclimate, temperature inside deadwood, tree holes and leaf litter warmed slightly more in primary forest than in logged forest, but the effect amounted to <0.1°C difference between forest types. We therefore conclude that selectively logged forests are similar to primary forests in their potential for thermal buffering, and subsequent ability to retain temperature-sensitive species under climate change. Selectively logged forests can play a crucial role in the long-term maintenance of global biodiversity.
Tropical forests play a major role in the carbon cycle of the terrestrial biosphere. Recent field studies have provided detailed descriptions of the carbon cycle of mature tropical forests, but logged or secondary forests have received much less attention. Here, we report the first measures of total net primary productivity (NPP) and its allocation along a disturbance gradient from old-growth forests to moderately and heavily logged forests in Malaysian Borneo. We measured the main NPP components (woody, fine root and canopy NPP) in old-growth (n = 6) and logged (n = 5) 1 ha forest plots. Overall, the total NPP did not differ between old-growth and logged forest (13.5 ± 0.5 and 15.7 ± 1.5 Mg C ha-1 year-1 respectively). However, logged forests allocated significantly higher fraction into woody NPP at the expense of the canopy NPP (42% and 48% into woody and canopy NPP, respectively, in old-growth forest vs 66% and 23% in logged forest). When controlling for local stand structure, NPP in logged forest stands was 41% higher, and woody NPP was 150% higher than in old-growth stands with similar basal area, but this was offset by structure effects (higher gap frequency and absence of large trees in logged forest). This pattern was not driven by species turnover: the average woody NPP of all species groups within logged forest (pioneers, nonpioneers, species unique to logged plots and species shared with old-growth plots) was similar. Hence, below a threshold of very heavy disturbance, logged forests can exhibit higher NPP and higher allocation to wood; such shifts in carbon cycling persist for decades after the logging event. Given that the majority of tropical forest biome has experienced some degree of logging, our results demonstrate that logging can cause substantial shifts in carbon production and allocation in tropical forests.
Carbon emissions from drained peatlands converted to agriculture in South-East Asia (i.e., Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo) are globally significant and increasing. Here, we map the growth of South-East Asian peatland agriculture and estimate CO2 emissions due to peat drainage in relation to official land-use plans with a focus on the reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+)-related Indonesian moratorium on granting new concession licences for industrial agriculture and logging. We find that, prior to 2010, 35% of South-East Asian peatlands had been converted to agriculture, principally by smallholder farmers (15% of original peat extent) and industrial oil palm plantations (14%). These conversions resulted in 1.46-6.43 GtCO2 of emissions between 1990 and 2010. This legacy of historical clearances on deep-peat areas will contribute 51% (4.43-11.45 GtCO2 ) of projected future peatland CO2 emissions over the period 2010-2130. In Indonesia, which hosts most of the region's peatland and where concession maps are publicly available, 70% of peatland conversion to agriculture occurred outside of known concessions for industrial plantation development, with smallholders accounting for 60% and industrial oil palm accounting for 34%. Of the remaining Indonesian peat swamp forest (PSF), 45% is not protected, and its conversion would amount to CO2 emissions equivalent to 0.7%-2.3% (5.14-14.93 Gt) of global fossil fuel and cement emissions released between 1990 and 2010. Of the peatland extent included in the moratorium, 48% was no longer forested, and of the PSF included, 40%-48% is likely to be affected by drainage impacts from agricultural areas and will emit CO2 over time. We suggest that recent legislation and policy in Indonesia could provide a means of meaningful emission reductions if focused on revised land-use planning, PSF conservation both inside and outside agricultural concessions, and the development of agricultural practices based on rehabilitating peatland hydrological function.
Logging, pervasive across the lowland tropics, affects millions of hectares of forest, yet its influence on nutrient cycling remains poorly understood. One hypothesis is that logging influences phosphorus (P) cycling, because this scarce nutrient is removed in extracted timber and eroded soil, leading to shifts in ecosystem functioning and community composition. However, testing this is challenging because P varies within landscapes as a function of geology, topography and climate. Superimposed upon these trends are compositional changes in logged forests, with species with more acquisitive traits, characterized by higher foliar P concentrations, more dominant. It is difficult to resolve these patterns using traditional field approaches alone. Here, we use airborne light detection and ranging-guided hyperspectral imagery to map foliar nutrient (i.e. P, nitrogen [N]) concentrations, calibrated using field measured traits, over 400 km2 of northeastern Borneo, including a landscape-level disturbance gradient spanning old-growth to repeatedly logged forests. The maps reveal that canopy foliar P and N concentrations decrease with elevation. These relationships were not identified using traditional field measurements of leaf and soil nutrients. After controlling for topography, canopy foliar nutrient concentrations were lower in logged forest than in old-growth areas, reflecting decreased nutrient availability. However, foliar nutrient concentrations and specific leaf area were greatest in relatively short patches in logged areas, reflecting a shift in composition to pioneer species with acquisitive traits. N:P ratio increased in logged forest, suggesting reduced soil P availability through disturbance. Through the first landscape scale assessment of how functional leaf traits change in response to logging, we find that differences from old-growth forest become more pronounced as logged forests increase in stature over time, suggesting exacerbated phosphorus limitation as forests recover.
Mangrove forests play an important role in climate change adaptation and mitigation by maintaining coastline elevations relative to sea level rise, protecting coastal infrastructure from storm damage and storing substantial quantities of carbon (C) in live and detrital pools. Determining the efficacy of mangroves in achieving climate goals can be complicated by difficulty in quantifying C inputs (i.e., differentiating newer inputs from younger trees from older residual C pools), and mitigation assessments rarely consider potential offsets to CO2 storage by methane (CH4 ) production in mangrove sediments. The establishment of non-native Rhizophora mangle along Hawaiian coastlines over the last century offers an opportunity to examine the role mangroves play in climate mitigation and adaptation both globally and locally as novel ecosystems. We quantified total ecosystem C storage, sedimentation, accretion, sediment organic C burial and CH4 emissions from ~70 year old R. mangle stands and adjacent uninvaded mudflats. Ecosystem C stocks of mangrove stands exceeded mudflats by 434 ± 33 Mg C ha-1 , and mangrove establishment increased average coastal accretion by 460%. Sediment organic C burial increased 10-fold (to 4.5 Mg C ha-1 yr-1 ), double the global mean for old growth mangrove forests, suggesting that C accumulation from younger trees may occur faster than previously thought, with implications for mangrove restoration. Simulations indicate that increased CH4 emissions from sediments offset ecosystem CO2 storage by only 2-4%, equivalent to 30-60 Mg CO2 -eq ha-1 over mangrove lifetime (100-year sustained global warming potential). Results highlight the importance of mangroves as novel systems that can rapidly accumulate C, have a net positive atmospheric greenhouse gas removal effect, and support shoreline accretion rates that outpace current sea level rise. Sequestration potential of novel mangrove forests should be taken into account when considering their removal or management, especially in the context of climate mitigation goals.
Due to extremely high rates of evaporation and low precipitation in the Persian Gulf, discharges from desalination plants (DPs) can lead to ecological stresses by increasing water temperatures, salinities, and heavy metal concentrations, as well as decreasing dissolved oxygen levels. We discuss the potential ecological impacts of DPs on marine organisms and propose mitigating measures to reduce the problems induced by DPs discharges. The daily capacity of DPs in the Persian Gulf exceeds 11 million m3 per day, which is approximately half of global daily freshwater production; multistage flash distillation (MSF) is the dominant desalination process. Results from field and laboratory studies indicate that there are potentially serious and chronic threats to marine communities following exposure to DP discharges, especially within the zoobenthos, echinodermata, seagrasses, and coral reefs. DP discharges can lead to decreases in sensitive species, plankton abundance, hard substrate epifauna, and growth rates of seagrasses. However, the broad applicability of any one of these impacts is currently hard to scale because of the limited number of studies that have been conducted to assess the ecological impacts of DP discharge on Persian Gulf organisms. Even so, available data suggest that appropriately sited, designed, and operated DPs combined with current developments in impingement and entrainment reduction technology can mitigate many of the negative environmental impacts of DPs.
Tropical peatlands are vital ecosystems that play an important role in global carbon storage and cycles. Current estimates of greenhouse gases from these peatlands are uncertain as emissions vary with environmental conditions. This study provides the first comprehensive analysis of managed and natural tropical peatland GHG fluxes: heterotrophic (i.e., soil respiration without roots), total CO2 respiration rates, CH4 , and N2 O fluxes. The study documents studies that measure GHG fluxes from the soil (n = 372) from various land uses, groundwater levels, and environmental conditions. We found that total soil respiration was larger in managed peat ecosystems (median = 53.0 Mg CO2 ha-1 y-1 ) than in natural forest (median = 35.9 Mg CO2 ha-1 y-1 ). Groundwater level had a stronger effect on soil CO2 emission than land use. Every 100 mm drop of groundwater level caused an increase of 5.1 and 3.7 Mg CO2 ha-1 y-1 for plantation and cropping land use, respectively. Where groundwater is deep (≥0.5 m), heterotrophic respiration constituted 84% of the total emissions. N2 O emissions were significantly larger at deeper groundwater levels, where every drop in 100 mm of groundwater level resulted in an exponential emission increase (exp(0.704) kg N ha-1 y-1 ). Deeper groundwater levels induced high N2 O emissions, which constitute about 15% of total GHG emissions. CH4 emissions were large where groundwater is shallow, however, they were substantially smaller than other GHG emissions. When compared to temperate and boreal peatland soils, tropical peatlands had, on average, double the CO2 emissions. Surprisingly, the CO2 emission rates in tropical peatlands were in the same magnitude as tropical mineral soils. This comprehensive analysis provides a great understanding of the GHG dynamics within tropical peat soils that can be used as a guide for policymakers to create suitable programs to manage the sustainability of peatlands effectively.