Degraded lands worth protecting: the biological importance of Southeast Asia's repeatedly logged forests

David P. Edwards, Trond H. Larsen, Teegan D. S. Docherty, Felicity A. Ansell, Wayne W. Hsu, Mia A. Derhé, Keith C. Hamer, David S. Wilcove

Abstract

Southeast Asia is a hotspot of imperilled biodiversity, owing to extensive logging and forest conversion to oil palm agriculture. The degraded forests that remain after multiple rounds of intensive logging are often assumed to be of little conservation value; consequently, there has been no concerted effort to prevent them from being converted to oil palm. However, no study has quantified the biodiversity of repeatedly logged forests. We compare the species richness and composition of birds and dung beetles within unlogged (primary), once-logged and twice-logged forests in Sabah, Borneo. Logging had little effect on the overall richness of birds. Dung beetle richness declined following once-logging but did not decline further after twice-logging. The species composition of bird and dung beetle communities was altered, particularly after the second logging rotation, but globally imperilled bird species (IUCN Red List) did not decline further after twice-logging. Remarkably, over 75 per cent of bird and dung beetle species found in unlogged forest persisted within twice-logged forest. Although twice-logged forests have less biological value than primary and once-logged forests, they clearly provide important habitat for numerous bird and dung beetle species. Preventing these degraded forests from being converted to oil palm should be a priority of policy-makers and conservationists.

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