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The high value of logged tropical forests: lessons from northern Borneo

Abstract

The carbon storage and conservation value of old-growth tropical forests is clear, but the value of logged forest is less certain. Here we analyse >100,000 observations of individuals from 11 taxonomic groups and >2,500 species, covering up to 19 years of post-logging regeneration, and quantify the impacts of logging on carbon storage and biodiversity within lowland dipterocarp forests of Sabah, Borneo. We estimate that forests lost ca. 53% of above-ground biomass as a result of logging but despite this high level of degradation, logged forest retained considerable conservation value: floral species richness was higher in logged forest than in primary forest and whilst faunal species richness was typically lower in logged forest, in most cases the difference between habitats was no greater than ca. 10%. Moreover, in most studies >90% of species recorded in primary forest were also present in logged forest, including species of conservation concern. During recovery, logged forest accumulated carbon at five times the rate of natural forest (1.4 and 0.28 Mg C ha−1 year−1, respectively). We conclude that allowing the continued regeneration of extensive areas of Borneo’s forest that have already been logged, and are at risk of conversion to other land uses, would provide a significant carbon store that is likely to increase over time. Protecting intact forest is critical for biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation, but the contribution of logged forest to these twin goals should not be overlooked.

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Acknowledgments

We thank staff at the Danum Valley Field Centre for their assistance, especially Bernadus Bala Ola for help identifying seedlings, Alexander Karolus and Shaidih Samat for assistance with fieldwork, and Glen Reynolds for logistical support. Leopold Madani and Diwol Sundaling at the Forest Research Centre Sabah also assisted with seedling identification. Mike Gray helped collect and identify ants, and Aoife Delaney assisted with the seedling survey. We thank Yayasan Sabah, the Danum Valley Management Committee, the State Secretary, Sabah Chief Minister’s Department, and the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department, Kuala Lumpur for permission to conduct research at Danum Valley. This study is part of the Royal Society’s Southeast Asia Rain Forest Research Programme (Project No. RS235) and was supported by a University of Leeds Earth and Biosphere Institute studentship. SLL was supported by a Royal Society University Research Fellowship.

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Correspondence to Keith C. Hamer.

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Berry, N.J., Phillips, O.L., Lewis, S.L. et al. The high value of logged tropical forests: lessons from northern Borneo. Biodivers Conserv 19, 985–997 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-010-9779-z

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Keywords

  • Biodiversity
  • Clean development mechanism
  • REDD
  • Tropical forestry
  • UNFCCC