Is second-growth rainforest good enough? Going beyond community composition

Abstract

Tropical rainforests are the most biodiverse terrestrial ecosystems on the planet. Since so much old-growth rainforest continues to be destroyed, much effort has gone into understanding the conservation value of second-growth rainforests. However, the primary measuring stick for old-growth/second-growth comparisons is overall community similarity, and while presence-absence or abundance metrics are important initial data, it is also vital to determine whether species that are present in second-growth rainforests are actually viable, self-sustaining populations. To address this question, we assessed glass frog communities in old and second-growth rainforests at ten study sites in two countries. We compared: (1) glass frog community similarity, (2) patterns of species abundance, (3) embryonic survival, (4) reproductive success and (5) abiotic conditions in old and second-growth rainforests. Results indicated that glass frog community composition was consistently similar and that abundances did not differ between forest types for any species. No species were restricted to old-growth. Similarly, short-term embryonic survival was not significantly different between old-growth and second-growth forests. For one species that was intensively studied (H. orientale tobagoense), female clutch size was not significantly different among forest types and male reproductive success was significantly higher in second-growth. Our work suggests that glass frog communities in second-growth rainforests are similar to old-growth and are likely viable and self-sustaining populations. Conserving remnant old-growth forests remains vitally important but it is becoming clear that protecting second growth is also an important strategy to conserve biodiversity in the face of today’s unprecedented environmental challenges.

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Data availability

Data from this study will be made available in a suitable electronic repository upon acceptance.

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Acknowledgements

In Costa Rica, we thank SINAC and MINAE for research permits with special thanks to L. Vargas Fallas. In Tobago, we thank A. Ramsey of the Division of Food Production, Forestry & Fisheries, Tobago House of Assembly for research permits. We thank the Copeland Fund, the Biology Department, the Wilson Fund, the Life Sciences Endowment for the class of 1965, the Kendall-Rives Fund and the Presidential Discretionary Fund at the College of Wooster for funding. Special thanks to R. Quirós Flores, P. Foster, B. Kubicki and J. Stein for information and logistical assistance. We also thank D. Raines, B. Grunwald, A. Arquilla, S. Sharma, S. Comstock, A. Ray and R. Chamberlin for help with field work. We thank two anonymous reviewers whose comments improved an earlier version of this manuscript.

Funding

This research was financially supported by the College of Wooster.

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Correspondence to Richard M. Lehtinen.

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Methods used in this study were approved by the College of Wooster Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

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Supplementary Information

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 149 kb). Appendix S1. Locations of study sites in Costa Rica (A) and Tobago (B). See Appendix S2 for additional details

Supplementary material 2 (XLSX 14 kb). Appendix S2. List of study sites. The total number of transects is followed by the number of second-growth and old-growth transects, respectively. Previous land use indicates the predominant former land use of the secondary forests at each study site. Life zones assigned based on Holdridge (1967)

Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 432 kb). Appendix S3. Map of Bijagual Ecological Reserve, Costa Rica. The beginning of each old-growth rainforest stream transect is indicated with a black dot (n = 5); the beginning of each second-growth rainforest stream transect is indicated with a gray dot (n = 3)

Supplementary material 4 (XLSX 10 kb). Appendix S4. Presence and absence of glass frog species detected at each study site in Costa Rica, 2015–2019. + = detected during transect surveys, +* detected but not during transect surveys, - = not detected. Note: Hyalinobatrachium orientale tobagoense occurred at all study sites in Tobago

Supplementary material 5 (PDF 128 kb). Appendix S5. (A) Mean air temperature (°C) from dataloggers in old-growth and second-growth rainforests in Costa Rica by study site (total n = 6,673 hourly measurements, ± 2 SE). Overall, second-growth transects (n = 22) were significantly warmer than old-growth transects (n = 19; F = 11.2, df = 1, p = 0.001) but the mean difference was only 0.17°C. Temperature also differed significantly among study sites (F = 2348.7, df = 5, p < 0.001). (B) Mean air humidity (%) from dataloggers in old-growth and second-growth rainforests in Costa Rica by study site (total n = 6,673 hourly measurements, ± 2 SE). Overall, second-growth transects (n = 22) were not significantly different in humidity than old-growth transects (n = 19; F = 1.9, df = 1, p = 0.160) but there were significant differences among study sites (F = 136.4, df = 5, p < 0.001)

Supplementary material 6 (PDF 88 kb). Appendix S6. (A) Mean water temperature (°C) in old-growth and second-growth streams (± 2 SE). No significant differences were found (t = -0.02, df = 26, p = 0.983). (B) Mean dissolved oxygen content (mg/L) in old-growth and second-growth streams (± 2 SE). No significant difference was found (t = 1.39, df = 26, p = 0.064) but oxygen content tended to be lower in second-growth

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Lehtinen, R.M., Gumpper, C.W., Weiss, K. et al. Is second-growth rainforest good enough? Going beyond community composition. Biodivers Conserv 30, 781–796 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-021-02117-7

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Keywords

  • Centrolenidae
  • Forest regeneration
  • Glass frogs
  • Neotropics
  • Old-growth forest
  • Primary forest