Drought cuts back regeneration in logged tropical forests

Qie, Lan and Telford, Elizabeth M. and Massam, MR and Tangki, Hamzah and Nilus, Reuben and Hector, Andy and Ewers, Robert M (2019) Drought cuts back regeneration in logged tropical forests. Environmental Research Letters . ISSN 1748-9326

Full content URL: http://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab0783

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Drought cuts back regeneration in logged tropical forests
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Abstract

Logged tropical forests represent a major opportunity for preserving biodiversity and sequestering carbon, playing a large role in meeting global forest restoration targets. Left alone, these ecosystems have been expected to undergo natural regeneration and succession towards old growth forests, but extreme drought events may challenge this process. While old growth forests possess a certain level of resilience, we lack understanding as to how logging may affect forest responses to drought. This study examines the drought–logging interaction in seedling dynamics within a landscape of logged and unlogged forests in Sabah Malaysia, based on 73 plots monitored before and after the 2015-16 El Niño drought. Drought increased seedling mortality in all forests, but the magnitude of this impact was modulated by logging intensity, with forests with lower canopy leaf area index (LAI) and above ground biomass (AGB) experiencing greater drought induced mortality. Moreover, community traits in more heavily logged forests shifted towards being more ruderal after drought, suggesting that the trajectory of forest succession had been reversed. These results indicate that with reoccurring strong droughts under a changing climate, logged forests that have had over half of their biomass removed may suffer permanently arrested succession. Targeted management interventions may therefore be necessary to lift the vulnerable forests above the biomass threshold.

Keywords:Forest disturbance, forest recovery, community assembly, leaf trait, plant strategy, plant functional types
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C180 Ecology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:35385
Deposited On:15 Mar 2019 14:15

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