Variable shifts in bird and bat assemblages as a result of reduced-impact logging revealed after 10 years.

Published online
27 Apr 2024
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Harris, A. E. & Maharaj, G. & Hallett, M. & Thomas, R. & Roopsind, A. & O'Shea, B. J. & Bicknell, J. E.
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Selective logging is the most widespread driver of land-use change in biodiverse and carbon-rich tropical forests. However, the effects of selective logging on biodiversity are less than those associated with other drivers of forest degradation. A suite of recent research has shown that reduced-impact logging (RIL) results in few or no changes to biological assemblages. But because this logging technique is relatively new, most studies have only considered short-term impacts. We address this research gap by quantifying changes in biodiversity assemblage as a result of RIL over the longer term. We comprehensively sampled bird and bat assemblages pre-logged, 1 year after, and 10 years after RIL in Guyana, using a before-after control-impact (BACI) sampling design. We compared bird and bat assemblages in each timeframe, and additionally appraised the impact of time since logging, and the number of trees harvested across the suite of species which we further divided between different feeding guilds, disturbance sensitivity and vertical stratification of forest use. We found that 1 year after logging only minor changes could be detected, but 10 years later richness had slightly declined in some groups, while others had shown complete recovery. Nectivorous and insectivorous birds, and carnivorous bats declined in richness, while carnivorous birds, showed a clear recovery to a state akin to pre-logging. This indicates that for some niches a subtle, but long-term relaxation effect may be occurring, whereby extinction debts are realized long after the initial disturbance, while other groups have either recovered or not changed after logging. Assemblage changes were also predicted by vertical stratification of forest use, with avian species using the understorey and mid-upper levels of the forest being most affected. Synthesis and applications: Our study demonstrates how best practice forestry and logging can maintain healthy vertebrate populations over the long term. Forestry concessions that adopt techniques of low-harvest RIL and are managed for their long-term timber provision through extension of regeneration times beyond 10 years after harvest, are likely to benefit from the ecosystem services provided by biodiversity, while also making a valuable contribution to the global conservation estate.

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