Forest edge disturbance increases rattan abundance in tropical rain forest fragments
Campbell MJ; Edwards W; Magrach A; Laurance SG; Alamgir M
Human-induced forest fragmentation poses one of the largest threats to global diversity yet its impact on rattans (climbing palms) has remained virtually unexplored. Rattan is arguably the world’s most valuable non-timber forest product though current levels of harvesting and land-use change place wild populations at risk. To assess rattan response to fragmentation exclusive of harvesting impacts we examined rattan abundance demography and ecology within the forests of northeastern Australia. We assessed the community abundance of rattans and component adult (>3?m) and juvenile (=3?m) abundance in five intact forests and five fragments (23–58?ha) to determine their response to a range of environmental and ecological parameters. Fragmented forests supported higher abundances of rattans than intact forests. Fragment size and edge degradation significantly increased adult rattan abundance with more in smaller fragments and near edges. Our findings suggest that rattan increase within fragments is due to canopy disturbance of forest edges resulting in preferential high-light habitat. However adult and juvenile rattans may respond inconsistently to fragmentation. In managed forest fragments a rattan abundance increase may provide economic benefits through sustainable harvesting practices. However rattan increases in protected area forest fragments could negatively impact conservation outcomes.