With a focus on the Danum Valley area of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, this special issue has as its theme the future of tropical rainforests in a changing landscape and climate. The global environmental context to the issue is briefly given before the contents and rationale of the issue are summarized. Most of the papers are based on research carried out as part of the Royal Society South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme. The issue is divided into five sections: (i) the historical land-use and land management context; (ii) implications of land-use change for atmospheric chemistry and climate change; (iii) impacts of logging, forest fragmentation (particularly within an oil palm plantation landscape) and forest restoration on ecosystems and their functioning; (iv) the response and resilience of rainforest systems to climatic and land-use change; and (v) the scientific messages and policy implications arising from the research findings presented in the issue.
We report measurements of atmospheric composition over a tropical rainforest and over a nearby oil palm plantation in Sabah, Borneo. The primary vegetation in each of the two landscapes emits very different amounts and kinds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), resulting in distinctive VOC fingerprints in the atmospheric boundary layer for both landscapes. VOCs over the Borneo rainforest are dominated by isoprene and its oxidation products, with a significant additional contribution from monoterpenes. Rather than consuming the main atmospheric oxidant, OH, these high concentrations of VOCs appear to maintain OH, as has been observed previously over Amazonia. The boundary-layer characteristics and mixing ratios of VOCs observed over the Borneo rainforest are different to those measured previously over Amazonia. Compared with the Bornean rainforest, air over the oil palm plantation contains much more isoprene, monoterpenes are relatively less important, and the flower scent, estragole, is prominent. Concentrations of nitrogen oxides are greater above the agro-industrial oil palm landscape than over the rainforest, and this leads to changes in some secondary pollutant mixing ratios (but not, currently, differences in ozone). Secondary organic aerosol over both landscapes shows a significant contribution from isoprene. Primary biological aerosol dominates the super-micrometre aerosol over the rainforest and is likely to be sensitive to land-use change, since the fungal source of the bioaerosol is closely linked to above-ground biodiversity.
In an earlier special issue of this journal, Marsh & Greer summarized forest land use in Sabah at that time and gave an introduction to the Danum Valley Conservation Area. Since that assessment, during the period 1990-2010, the forests of Sabah and particularly those of the ca 10 000 km(2) concession managed on behalf of the State by Yayasan Sabah (the Sabah Foundation) have been subject to continual, industrial harvesting, including the premature re-logging of extensive tracts of previously only once-logged forest and large-scale conversion of natural forests to agricultural plantations. Over the same period, however, significant areas of previously unprotected pristine forest have been formally gazetted as conservation areas, while much of the forest to the north, the south and the east of the Danum Valley Conservation Area (the Ulu Segama and Malua Forest Reserves) has been given added protection and new forest restoration initiatives have been launched. This paper analyses these forest-management and land-use changes in Sabah during the period 1990-2010, with a focus on the Yayasan Sabah Forest Management Area. Important new conservation and forest restoration and rehabilitation initiatives within its borders are given particular emphasis.
This paper reports measurements of land-atmosphere fluxes of sensible and latent heat, momentum, CO(2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), NO, NO(2), N(2)O and O(3) over a 30 m high rainforest canopy and a 12 m high oil palm plantation in the same region of Sabah in Borneo between April and July 2008. The daytime maximum CO(2) flux to the two canopies differs by approximately a factor of 2, 1200 mg C m(-2) h(-1) for the oil palm and 700 mg C m(-2) h(-1) for the rainforest, with the oil palm plantation showing a substantially greater quantum efficiency. Total VOC emissions are also larger over the oil palm than over the rainforest by a factor of 3. Emissions of isoprene from the oil palm canopy represented 80 per cent of the VOC emissions and exceeded those over the rainforest in similar light and temperature conditions by on average a factor of 5. Substantial emissions of estragole (1-allyl-4-methoxybenzene) from the oil palm plantation were detected and no trace of this VOC was detected in or above the rainforest. Deposition velocities for O(3) to the rainforest were a factor of 2 larger than over oil palm. Emissions of nitrous oxide were larger from the soils of the oil palm plantation than from the soils of the rainforest by approximately 25 per cent. It is clear from the measurements that the large change in the species composition generated by replacing rainforest with oil palm leads to profound changes in the net exchange of most of the trace gases measured, and thus on the chemical composition of the boundary layer over these surfaces.
Much of the forest remaining in South East Asia has been selectively logged. The processes promoting species coexistence may be the key to the recovery and maintenance of diversity in these forests. One such process is the Janzen-Connell mechanism, where specialized natural enemies such as seed predators maintain diversity by inhibiting regeneration near conspecifics. In Neotropical forests, anthropogenic disturbance can disrupt the Janzen-Connell mechanism, but similar data are unavailable for South East Asia. We investigated the effects of conspecific density (two spatial scales) and distance from fruiting trees on seed and seedling survival of the canopy tree Parashorea malaanonan in unlogged and logged forests in Sabah, Malaysia. The production of mature seeds was higher in unlogged forest, perhaps because high adult densities facilitate pollination or satiate pre-dispersal predators. In both forest types, post-dispersal survival was reduced by small-scale (1 m(2)) conspecific density, but not by proximity to the nearest fruiting tree. Large-scale conspecific density (seeds per fruiting tree) reduced predation, probably by satiating predators. Higher seed production in unlogged forest, in combination with slightly higher survival, meant that recruitment was almost entirely limited to unlogged forest. Thus, while logging might not affect the Janzen-Connell mechanism at this site, it may influence the recruitment of particular species.
We present results from the OP3 campaign in Sabah during 2008 that allow us to study the impact of local emission changes over Borneo on atmospheric composition at the regional and wider scale. OP3 constituent data provide an important constraint on model performance. Treatment of boundary layer processes is highlighted as an important area of model uncertainty. Model studies of land-use change confirm earlier work, indicating that further changes to intensive oil palm agriculture in South East Asia, and the tropics in general, could have important impacts on air quality, with the biggest factor being the concomitant changes in NO(x) emissions. With the model scenarios used here, local increases in ozone of around 50 per cent could occur. We also report measurements of short-lived brominated compounds around Sabah suggesting that oceanic (and, especially, coastal) emission sources dominate locally. The concentration of bromine in short-lived halocarbons measured at the surface during OP3 amounted to about 7 ppt, setting an upper limit on the amount of these species that can reach the lower stratosphere.
Long-term (21-30 years) erosional responses of rainforest terrain in the Upper Segama catchment, Sabah, to selective logging are assessed at slope, small and large catchment scales. In the 0.44 km(2) Baru catchment, slope erosion measurements over 1990-2010 and sediment fingerprinting indicate that sediment sources 21 years after logging in 1989 are mainly road-linked, including fresh landslips and gullying of scars and toe deposits of 1994-1996 landslides. Analysis and modelling of 5-15 min stream-suspended sediment and discharge data demonstrate a reduction in storm-sediment response between 1996 and 2009, but not yet to pre-logging levels. An unmixing model using bed-sediment geochemical data indicates that 49 per cent of the 216 t km(-2) a(-1) 2009 sediment yield comes from 10 per cent of its area affected by road-linked landslides. Fallout (210)Pb and (137)Cs values from a lateral bench core indicate that sedimentation rates in the 721 km(2) Upper Segama catchment less than doubled with initially highly selective, low-slope logging in the 1980s, but rose 7-13 times when steep terrain was logged in 1992-1993 and 1999-2000. The need to keep steeplands under forest is emphasized if landsliding associated with current and predicted rises in extreme rainstorm magnitude-frequency is to be reduced in scale.
Stable carbon isotope (δ(13)C) series were developed from analysis of sequential radial wood increments from AD 1850 to AD 2009 for four mature primary rainforest trees from the Danum and Imbak areas of Sabah, Malaysia. The aseasonal equatorial climate meant that conventional dendrochronology was not possible as the tree species investigated do not exhibit clear annual rings or dateable growth bands. Chronology was established using radiocarbon dating to model age-growth relationships and date the carbon isotopic series from which the intrinsic water-use efficiency (IWUE) was calculated. The two Eusideroxylon zwageri trees from Imbak yielded ages of their pith/central wood (±1 sigma) of 670 ± 40 and 759 ± 40 years old; the less dense Shorea johorensis and Shorea superba trees at Danum yielded ages of 240 ± 40 and 330 ± 40 years, respectively. All trees studied exhibit an increase in the IWUE since AD 1960. This reflects, in part, a response of the forest to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. Unlike studies of some northern European trees, no clear plateau in this response was observed. A change in the IWUE implies an associated modification of the local carbon and/or hydrological cycles. To resolve these uncertainties, a shift in emphasis away from high-resolution studies towards long, well-replicated time series is proposed to develop the environmental data essential for model evaluation. Identification of old (greater than 700 years) ringless trees demonstrates their potential in assessing the impacts of climatic and atmospheric change. It also shows the scientific and applied value of a conservation policy that ensures the survival of primary forest containing particularly old trees (as in Imbak Canyon and Danum).
Relatively, little is known about the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in forests, especially in the tropics. We describe the Sabah Biodiversity Experiment: a large-scale, long-term field study on the island of Borneo. The project aims at understanding the relationship between tree species diversity and the functioning of lowland dipterocarp rainforest during restoration following selective logging. The experiment is planned to run for several decades (from seed to adult tree), so here we focus on introducing the project and its experimental design and on assessing initial conditions and the potential for restoration of the structure and functioning of the study system, the Malua Forest Reserve. We estimate residual impacts 22 years after selective logging by comparison with an appropriate neighbouring area of primary forest in Danum Valley of similar conditions. There was no difference in the alpha or beta species diversity of transect plots in the two forest types, probably owing to the selective nature of the logging and potential effects of competitive release. However, despite equal total stem density, forest structure differed as expected with a deficit of large trees and a surfeit of saplings in selectively logged areas. These impacts on structure have the potential to influence ecosystem functioning. In particular, above-ground biomass and carbon pools in selectively logged areas were only 60 per cent of those in the primary forest even after 22 years of recovery. Our results establish the initial conditions for the Sabah Biodiversity Experiment and confirm the potential to accelerate restoration by using enrichment planting of dipterocarps to overcome recruitment limitation. What role dipterocarp diversity plays in restoration only will become clear with long-term results.
Opportunities to conduct large-scale field experiments are rare, but provide a unique opportunity to reveal the complex processes that operate within natural ecosystems. Here, we review the design of existing, large-scale forest fragmentation experiments. Based on this review, we develop a design for the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) Project, a new forest fragmentation experiment to be located in the lowland tropical forests of Borneo (Sabah, Malaysia). The SAFE Project represents an advance on existing experiments in that it: (i) allows discrimination of the effects of landscape-level forest cover from patch-level processes; (ii) is designed to facilitate the unification of a wide range of data types on ecological patterns and processes that operate over a wide range of spatial scales; (iii) has greater replication than existing experiments; (iv) incorporates an experimental manipulation of riparian corridors; and (v) embeds the experimentally fragmented landscape within a wider gradient of land-use intensity than do existing projects. The SAFE Project represents an opportunity for ecologists across disciplines to participate in a large initiative designed to generate a broad understanding of the ecological impacts of tropical forest modification.
The conversion of natural forest to oil palm plantation is a major current threat to the conservation of biodiversity in South East Asia. Most animal taxa decrease in both species richness and abundance on conversion of forest to oil palm, and there is usually a severe loss of forest species. The extent of loss varies significantly across both different taxa and different microhabitats within the oil palm habitat. The principal driver of this loss in diversity is probably the biological and physical simplification of the habitat, but there is little direct evidence for this. The conservation of forest species requires the preservation of large reserves of intact forest, but we must not lose sight of the importance of conserving biodiversity and ecosystem processes within the oil palm habitat itself. We urgently need to carry out research that will establish whether maintaining diversity supports economically and ecologically important processes. There is some evidence that both landscape and local complexity can have positive impacts on biodiversity in the oil palm habitat. By intelligent manipulation of habitat complexity, it could be possible to enhance not only the number of species that can live in oil palm plantations but also their contribution to the healthy functioning of this exceptionally important and widespread landscape.
Large areas of tropical forest now exist as remnants scattered across agricultural landscapes, and so understanding the impacts of forest fragmentation is important for biodiversity conservation. We examined species richness and nestedness among tropical forest remnants in birds (meta-analysis of published studies) and insects (field data for fruit-feeding Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and ants). Species-area relationships were evident in all four taxa, and avian and insect assemblages in remnants typically were nested subsets of those in larger areas. Avian carnivores and nectarivores and predatory ants were more nested than other guilds, implying that the sequential loss of species was more predictable in these groups, and that fragmentation alters the trophic organization of communities. For butterflies, the ordering of fragments to achieve maximum nestedness was by fragment area, suggesting that differences among fragments were driven mainly by extinction. In contrast for moths, maximum nestedness was achieved by ordering species by wing length; species with longer wings (implying better dispersal) were more likely to occur at all sites, including low diversity sites, suggesting that differences among fragments were driven more strongly by colonization. Although all four taxa exhibited high levels of nestedness, patterns of species turnover were also idiosyncratic, and thus even species-poor sites contributed to landscape-scale biodiversity, particularly for insects.
South East Asia is widely regarded as a centre of threatened biodiversity owing to extensive logging and forest conversion to agriculture. In particular, forests degraded by repeated rounds of intensive logging are viewed as having little conservation value and are afforded meagre protection from conversion to oil palm. Here, we determine the biological value of such heavily degraded forests by comparing leaf-litter ant communities in unlogged (natural) and twice-logged forests in Sabah, Borneo. We accounted for impacts of logging on habitat heterogeneity by comparing species richness and composition at four nested spatial scales, and examining how species richness was partitioned across the landscape in each habitat. We found that twice-logged forest had fewer species occurrences, lower species richness at small spatial scales and altered species composition compared with natural forests. However, over 80 per cent of species found in unlogged forest were detected within twice-logged forest. Moreover, greater species turnover among sites in twice-logged forest resulted in identical species richness between habitats at the largest spatial scale. While two intensive logging cycles have negative impacts on ant communities, these degraded forests clearly provide important habitat for numerous species and preventing their conversion to oil palm and other crops should be a conservation priority.
Changes in species composition in two 4-ha plots of lowland dipterocarp rainforest at Danum, Sabah, were measured over ten years (1986-1996) for trees > or = 10 cm girth at breast height (gbh). Each included a lower-slope to ridge gradient. The period lay between two drought events of moderate intensity but the forest showed no large lasting responses, suggesting that its species were well adapted to this regime. Mortality and recruitment rates were not unusual in global or regional comparisons. The forest continued to aggrade from its relatively (for Sabah) low basal area in 1986 and, together with the very open upper canopy structure and an abundance of lianas, this suggests a forest in a late stage of recovery from a major disturbance, yet one continually affected by smaller recent setbacks. Mortality and recruitment rates were not related to population size in 1986, but across subplots recruitment was positively correlated with the density and basal area of small trees (10-< 50cm gbh) forming the dense understorey. Neither rate was related to topography. While species with larger mean gbh had greater relative growth rates (rgr) than smaller ones, subplot mean recruitment rates were correlated with rgr among small trees. Separating understorey species (typically the Euphorbiaceae) from the overstorey (Dipterocarpaceae) showed marked differences in change in mortality with increasing gbh: in the former it increased, in the latter it decreased. Forest processes are centred on this understorey quasi-stratum. The two replicate plots showed a high correspondence in the mortality, recruitment, population changes and growth rates of small trees for the 49 most abundant species in common to both. Overstorey species had higher rgrs than understorey ones, but both showed considerable ranges in mortality and recruitment rates. The supposed trade-off in traits, viz slower rgr, shade tolerance and lower population turnover in the understorey group versus faster potential growth rate, high light responsiveness and high turnover in the overstorey group, was only partly met, as some understorey species were also very dynamic. The forest at Danum, under such a disturbance-recovery regime, can be viewed as having a dynamic equilibrium in functional and structural terms. A second trade-off in shade-tolerance versus drought-tolerance is suggested for among the understorey species. A two-storey (or vertical component) model is proposed where the understorcy-overstorey species' ratio of small stems (currently 2:1) is maintained by a major feedback process. The understorey appears to be an important part of this forest, giving resilience against drought and protecting the overstorey saplings in the long term. This view could be valuable for understanding forest responses to climate change where drought frequency in Borneo is predicted to intensify in the coming decades.
Ten years' hydrological investigations at Danum have provided strong evidence of the effects of extremes of drought, as in the April 1992 El Niño southern oscillation event, and flood, as in January 1996. The 1.5 km2 undisturbed forest control catchment experienced a complete drying out of the stream for the whole 1.5 km of defined channel above the gauging station in 1992, but concentrated surface flow along every declivity from within a few metres of the catchment divide after the exceptional rains of 19 January 1996. Under these natural conditions, erosion is episodic. Sediment is discharged in pulses caused by storm events, collapse of debris dams and occasional landslips. Disturbance by logging accentuates this irregular regime. In the first few months following disturbance, a wave of sediment is moved by each storm, but over subsequent years, rare events scour sediment from bare areas, gullies and channel deposits. The spatial distribution of sediment sources changes with time after logging, as bare areas on slopes are revegetated and small gullies are filled with debris. Extreme storm events, as in January 1996, cause logging roads to collapse, with landslides leading to surges of sediment into channels, reactivating the pulsed sediment delivery by every storm that happened immediately after logging. These effects are not dampened out with increasing catchment scale. Even the 721 km2 Sungai Segama has a sediment yield regime dominated by extreme events, the sediment yield in that single day on 19 January 1996 exceeding the annual sediment load in several previous years. In a large disturbed catchment, such road failures and logging-activity-induced mass movements increase the mud and silt in floodwaters affecting settlements downstream. Management systems require long-term sediment reduction strategies. This implies careful road design and good water movement regulation and erosion control throughout the logging process.
Investigations of land management impacts on hydrology are well developed in South-East Asia, having been greatly extended by national organizations in the last two decades. Regional collaborative efforts, such as the ASEAN-US watershed programme, have helped develop skills and long-running monitoring programmes. Work in different countries is significant for particular aspects: the powerful effects of both cyclones and landsliding in Taiwan, the significance of lahars in Java, of small-scale agriculture in Thailand and plantation establishment in Malaysia. Different aid programmes have contributed specialist knowledge such as British work on reservoir sedimentation, Dutch, Swedish and British work on softwood plantations and US work in hill-tribe agriculture. Much has been achieved through individual university research projects, including PhD and MSc theses. The net result is that for most countries there is now good information on changes in the rainfall-run-off relationship due to forest disturbance or conversion, some information on the impacts on sediment delivery and erosion of hillslopes, but relatively little about the dynamics and magnitude of nutrient losses. Improvements have been made in the ability to model the consequences of forest conversion and of selective logging and exciting prospects exist for the development of better predictions of transfer of water from the hillslopes to the stream channels using techniques such as multilevel modelling. Understanding of the processes involved has advanced through the detailed monitoring made possible at permanent field stations such as that at Danum Valley, Sabah.
A synthesis is presented of sampling work conducted under a UK government-funded Darwin Initiative grant undertaken predominantly within the Danum Valley Conservation Area (DVCA), Sabah, East Malaysia. The project concerned the assemblage structure, gas physiology and landscape gas fluxes of termites in pristine and two ages of secondary, dipterocarp forest. The DVCA termite fauna is typical of the Sunda region, dominated by Termes-group soil-feeders and Nasutitermitinae. Selective logging appears to have relatively little effect on termite assemblages, although soil-feeding termites may be moderately affected by this level of disturbance. Species composition changes, but to a small extent when considered against the background level of compositional differences within the Sunda region. Physiologically the assemblage is very like others that have been studied, although there are some species that do not fit on the expected body size-metabolic rate curve. As elsewhere, soil-feeders and soil-wood interface-feeders tend to produce more methane. As with the termite assemblage characteristics, gross gas and energy fluxes do not differ significantly between logged and unlogged sites. Although gross methane fluxes are high, all the soils at DVCA were methane sinks, suggesting that methane oxidation by methanotrophic bacteria was a more important process than methane production by gut archaea. This implies that methane production by termites in South-East Asia is not contributing significantly to the observed increase in levels of methane production worldwide. Biomass density, species richness, clade complement and energy flow were much lower at DVCA than at a directly comparable site in southern Cameroon. This is probably due to the different biogeographical histories of the areas.
The effects of selective logging on the diversity and species composition of moths were investigated by sampling from multiple sites in primary forest, both understorey and canopy, and logged forest at Danum Valley, Sabah, Malaysia. The diversity of individual sites was similar, although rarefied species richness of logged forest was 17% lower than for primary forest (understorey and canopy combined). There was significant heterogeneity in faunal composition and measures of similarity (NESS index) among primary forest understorey sites which may be as great as those between primary understorey and logged forest. The lowest similarity values were between primary forest understorey and canopy, indicating a distinct canopy fauna. A number of species encountered in the logged forest were confined to, or more abundant in, the canopy of primary forest. Approximately 10% of species were confined to primary forest across a range of species' abundances, suggesting this is a minimum estimate for the number of species lost following logging. The importance of accounting for heterogeneity within primary forest and sampling in the canopy when measuring the effects of disturbance on tropical forest communities are emphasized.
Climatic records for Danum for 1985-1998, elsewhere in Sabah since 1879, and long monthly rainfall series from other rainforest locations are used to place the climate, and particularly the dry period climatology, of Danum into a world rainforest context. The magnitude frequency and seasonality of dry periods are shown to vary greatly within the world's rainforest zone. The climate of Danum, which is aseasonal but subject, as in 1997-1998, to occasional drought, is intermediate between less drought-prone north-western Borneo and the more drought-prone east coast. Changes through time in drought magnitude frequency in Sabah and rainforest locations elsewhere in South-East Asia and in the Neotropics are compared. The 1997-1998 ENSO-related drought event in Sabah is placed into a historical context. The effects of drought on tree growth and mortality in the tropics are assessed and a model relating intensity and frequency of drought disturbance to forest structure and composition is discussed.
Community resistance to, and resilience from, perturbation will determine the trajectory of recovery from disturbance. Although selective timber extraction is considered a severe disturbance, fish communities from headwater streams around Danum Valley Field Centre, Sabah, Malaysia, showed few long-term changes in species composition or abundance. However, some species showed short-term (< 18 months) absence or decrease in abundance. These observations suggested that both resistance and resilience were important in maintaining long-term fish community structure. Resistance to perturbation was tested by monitoring fish communities before and after the creation of log-debris dams, while resilience was investigated by following the time-course of recolonization following complete removal of all fish. High community resistance was generally shown although the response was site-specific, dependent on the composition of the starting community, the size of the stream and physical habitat changes. High resilience was demonstrated in all recolonization experiments with strong correlations between pre- and post-defaunation communities, although there was a significant difference between pool and riffle habitats in the time-course of recovery. These differences can be explained by the movement characteristics of the species found in the different habitats. Resilience appeared to be a more predictable characteristic of the community than resistance and the implications of this for ensuring the long-term persistence of fish in the area are discussed.