February 8, 2011
ROYAL Society’s South-East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP) will coordinate and manage research aimed at understanding the impacts of forest modification (conversion of forests into oil palm plantations) on biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and provision of ecosystem services.
Much of the current research by SEARRP focuses on the “functional role” of biodiversity – focusing on groups that play an important role in the functioning of ecosystems, such as ants, fungi, decomposers, termites, pollinators and plant herbivores.
The integrated research programme will focus on six key areas:
> Animal diversity and communities (birds, mammals, invertebrates)
> Plant diversity and communities (diversity, growth rates and carbon storage)
> Water and soils (including water quality, stream flows, erosion, water budgets)
> Carbon cycling (carbon storage in soils and plants, and sophisticated measurements of carbon dioxide fluctuations using a carbon flux tower)
> Nutrient cycling (nitrogen and phosphorus cycling, decomposition rates)
> Microclimate (including air and soil temperature, humidity)
SEARRP’s 25 years’ of work in Danum Valley have yielded the following scientific findings, and these will form much of the basis for Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems project:
> Selective logging has relatively minimal impact on biodiversity (across a range of taxa).
> Even heavily degraded logged forest retains high biodiversity value – but the perceived low value of such land leaves it vulnerable to land-use change.
> The rainforest canopy supports much higher levels of biodiversity than previously thought – accounted for largely by species living within canopy epiphytes. For example, ferns found on top of trees (including oil palm trunks) host a remarkable range of species.
> Lowland forests show considerable resilience to drought with little overall increase in mortality.
However, forest recovery, in terms of erosion, takes longer and is more complex than formerly thought – with a secondary erosion “spike” found 15 to 20 years after logging.
This serves as a strong case for the creation of a buffer zone between plantations and river banks and other wetlands.
> The major threat to forests of Borneo is probably fire, with degraded and fragmented forest highly vulnerable.
This implies that fainforest rehabilitation with the intention of improving forest structure is essential.
Source: The Star