QE: Fragmentation and Land-use Change: Impacts on Tropical Forest Biodiversity (Luke Gibson, 15 Sep 2011: 2.00pm)

Department of Biological Sciences, NUS
Qualifying Examination

Fragmentation and Land-use Change: Impacts on Tropical Forest Biodiversity

Speaker: Luke Gibson  (Graduate Student, Dept.of Biological Sciences, NUS)
Date: 15 September  2011, Thursday
Time: 2pm
Supervisor: Prof Corlett R T

Forest loss and fragmentation increasingly threaten biodiversity, particularly in tropical forests where both species diversity and human pressures on natural environments are high. The rapid conversion of tropical forests for agriculture, timber production and other uses has generated vast human-dominated landscapes with potentially dire consequences for tropical biodiversity.

Using a meta-analysis, I first provide a global assessment of the impact of disturbance and forest conversion on biodiversity in tropical forests. Although there was some variation across geographic regions, taxonomic groups, ecological metrics, and disturbance types, forest degradation and conversion consistently reduced tropical biodiversity. Consequently, the protection of primary forests must represent a top conservation priority. Ongoing forest loss and conversion has also resulted in widespread fragmentation of tropical forest ecosystems, which represents another pressing threat to biodiversity.

In the second component of my research, I will study the impact of fragmentation on mammal communities in a large reservoir in southern Thailand. A previous study documented a crash in small mammal species richness and genetic diversity on islands in the reservoir just 5-7 years following isolation. I will resurvey the same populations to identify further changes in richness and genetic diversity after an additional 20 years of isolation. With this historical comparison, my research can be used to calculate the rates of ecosystem collapse and genetic erosion, which can then be applied to the management of wildlife populations in small isolated nature reserves. I will also survey bats and large mammals and compare the responses of different mammal groups with different dispersal abilities.

Finally, I will examine the ecological role of small mammals as dispersers of mycorrhizal fungi, and the effect of forest fragmentation on this important ecosystem function. These comprehensive studies – covering multiple disturbance types in a global meta-analysis and incorporating the full response and function of mammals in a fragmented forest system – will together provide a broad and detailed understanding of two of the major threats to tropical biodiversity.

Gibson - 2011

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