Conservation value, biodiversity value and methods of assessment in regenerating and human disturbed tropical forest

Whitworth, Andrew William (2016) Conservation value, biodiversity value and methods of assessment in regenerating and human disturbed tropical forest. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Although the value of primary forests for biodiversity conservation is well known, the potential biodiversity and conservation value of regenerating forests remains controversial. Many factors likely contribute to this, including: 1. the variable ages of regenerating forests being studied (often dominated by relatively young regenerating forests); 2. the potential for confounding on-going human disturbance (such as logging and hunting); 3. the relatively low number of multi-taxa studies; 4. the lack of studies that directly compare different historic disturbances within the same location; 5. contrasting patterns from different survey methodologies and the paucity of knowledge on the impacts across different vertical levels of rainforest biodiversity (often due to a lack of suitable methodologies available to assess them). We also know relatively little as to how biodiversity is affected by major current impacts, such as unmarked rainforest roads, which contribute to this degradation of habitat and fragmentation. This thesis explores the potential biodiversity value of regenerating rainforests under the best of scenarios and seeks to understand more about the impact of current human disturbance to biodiversity; data comes from case studies from the Manu and Sumaco Biosphere Reserves in the Western Amazon.
Specifically, I compare overall biodiversity and conservation value of a best case regenerating rainforest site with a selection of well-studied primary forest sites and with predicted species lists for the region; including a focus on species of key conservation concern. I then investigate the biodiversity of the same study site in reference to different types of historic anthropogenic disturbance. Following this I investigate the impacts to biodiversity from an unmarked rainforest road. In order to understand more about the differential effects of habitat disturbance on arboreal diversity I directly assess how patterns of butterfly biodiversity vary between three vertical strata. Although assessments within the canopy have been made for birds, invertebrates and bats, very few studies have successfully targeted arboreal mammals. I therefore investigate the potential of camera traps for inventorying arboreal mammal species in comparison with traditional methodologies. Finally, in order to investigate the possibility that different survey methodologies might identify different biodiversity patterns in habitat disturbance assessments, I investigate whether two different but commonly used survey methodologies used to assess amphibians, indicate the same or different responses of amphibian biodiversity to historic habitat change by people.
The regenerating rainforest study site contained high levels of species richness; both in terms of alpha diversity found in nearby primary forest areas (87% ±3.5) and in terms of predicted primary forest diversity from the region (83% ±6.7). This included 89% (39 out of 44) of the species of high conservation concern predicted for the Manu region. Faunal species richness in once completely cleared regenerating forest was on average 13% (±9.8) lower than historically selectively logged forest. The presence of the small unmarked road significantly altered levels of faunal biodiversity for three taxa, up to and potentially beyond 350m into the forest interior. Most notably, the impact on biodiversity extended to at least 32% of the whole reserve area. The assessment of butterflies across strata showed that different vertical zones within the same rainforest responded differently in areas with different historic human disturbance. A comparison between forest regenerating after selective logging and forest regenerating after complete clearance, showed that there was a 17% greater reduction in canopy species richness in the historically cleared forest compared with the terrestrial community. Comparing arboreal camera traps with traditional ground-based techniques suggests that camera traps are an effective tool for inventorying secretive arboreal rainforest mammal communities and detect a higher number of cryptic species. Finally, the two survey methodologies used to assess amphibian communities identified contrasting biodiversity patterns in a human modified rainforest; one indicated biodiversity differences between forests with different human disturbance histories, whereas the other suggested no differences between forest disturbance types.
Overall, in this thesis I find that the conservation and biodiversity value of regenerating and human disturbed tropical forest can potentially contribute to rainforest biodiversity conservation, particularly in the best of circumstances. I also highlight the importance of utilising appropriate study methodologies that to investigate these three-dimensional habitats, and contribute to the development of methodologies to do so. However, care should be taken when using different survey methodologies, which can provide contrasting biodiversity patterns in response to human disturbance.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history
Q Science > QL Zoology
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Supervisor's Name: MacLeod, Dr. Ross and Downie, Prof. Roger
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Dr ANDREW WHITWORTH
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7426
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2016 08:35
Last Modified: 28 Jul 2016 15:23

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