, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 253-268
Date: 07 Dec 2012

Trait-dependent declines of species following conversion of rain forest to oil palm plantations

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Conversion of natural habitats to agriculture reduces species richness, particularly in highly diverse tropical regions, but its effects on species composition are less well-studied. The conversion of rain forest to oil palm is of particular conservation concern globally, and we examined how it affects the abundance of birds, beetles, and ants according to their local population size, body size, geographical range size, and feeding guild or trophic position. We re-analysed data from six published studies representing 487 species/genera to assess the relative importance of these traits in explaining changes in abundance following forest conversion. We found consistent patterns across all three taxa, with large-bodied, abundant forest species from higher trophic levels, declining most in abundance following conversion of forest to oil palm. Best-fitting models explained 39–66 % of the variation in abundance changes for the three taxa, and included all ecological traits that we considered. Across the three taxa, those few species found in oil palm tended to be small-bodied species, from lower trophic levels, that had low local abundances in forest. These species were often hyper-abundant in oil palm plantations. These results provide empirical evidence of consistent responses to land-use change among taxonomic groups in relation to ecological traits.