Effects of fragmentation and landscape variation on tree diversity in post-logging regrowth forests of the Southern Philippines
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The conservation value of forest fragments remains controversial. An extensive inventory of rainforest trees in post-logging regrowth forest in the southern Philippines provided a rare opportunity to compare stem density, species richness, diversity and biotic similarity between two types of post-logging forests: broken-canopy forest fragments and adjacent tracts of closed-canopy ‘contiguous’ forest. Tree density was much lower in the fragments, but rarefied species richness was higher. ‘Hill’ numbers, computed as the exponential of Shannon’s diversity index and the inverse of Simpson’s diversity index, indicated that fragments have higher numbers of typical and dominant species compared to contiguous forest. Beta diversity (based on species incidence) and the exponential of Shannon’s diversity index was higher in fragmented forest, indicating higher spatial species turnover than in contiguous forest samples. Lower mean values of the Chao-Jaccard index in fragmented forest compared to contiguous forest also indicated a lower probability of shared species across fragments. The high species richness of contiguous forest showed that an earlier single logging event had not caused biodiversity to be degraded leaving mostly generalist species. Fragmentation and further low-level utilisation by local farmers has also not caused acute degradation. Post-logging regrowth forest fragments present a window of opportunity for conservation that may disappear in a few years as edge effects become more apparent. For the conservation of trees in forests in south-east Asia generally, our findings also suggest that while conservation of remaining primary forest may be preferable, the conservation value of post-logging regrowth forests can also be high.