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Impacts of selective logging on tree diversity across a rainforest landscape: the importance of spatial scale

Abstract

Selective logging of tropical forests imposes spatial pattern on the landscape by creating a mosaic of patches affected by different intensities of disturbance. To understand the ecological impacts of selective logging it is therefore necessary to explore how patterns of tree species composition are affected by this patchy disturbance. This study examines the impacts of selective logging on species composition and spatial patterns of vegetation structure and tree diversity in Sabah, Borneo. We compare tree diversity between logged and unlogged forest at three scales: species richness within plots, species turnover among plots, and total species richness and composition of plots combined. Logging had no effect on tree diversity measured at the smallest scale. Logged forest had a greater rate of species turnover with distance, so at a large spatial scale it supported more tree species than the relatively homogeneous unlogged area. Tree species composition also differed significantly between the two types of forest, with more small dipterocarps and large pioneers in logged forest, and more large dipterocarps in unlogged forest. Our results emphasize the importance of sampling at a sufficiently large scale to represent patterns of biodiversity within tropical forest landscapes. Large areas of production forest in SE Asia are threatened with conversion to commercial crops; our findings show that selectively logged forest can retain considerable conservation value.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the staff and scientists at the Danum Valley Field centre, especially Bernados Bala-Ola for help identifying trees in the field; and Alexander Karoulos and Shaidih Samat for assistance with tree surveys. Leopold Madani, Diwol Sundaling and other staff at the Forest Research Centre Sabah assisted with identification of leaf samples and soil analysis. 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, gave permission to conduct research at Danum Valley. This study is part of the Royal Society Southeast Asia Rain Forest Research Programme (Project No. RS235) and was supported by an Earth and Biosphere Institute studentship to Nicholas J. Berry.

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Berry, N.J., Phillips, O.L., Ong, R.C. et al. Impacts of selective logging on tree diversity across a rainforest landscape: the importance of spatial scale. Landscape Ecol 23, 915–929 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-008-9248-1

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Keywords

  • Alpha-diversity
  • Beta-diversity
  • Borneo
  • Danum Valley
  • Disturbance
  • Gap dynamics
  • Tropical rain forest
  • Vegetation structure