From town to national park: Understanding the long-term effects of hunting and logging on tree communities in Central Africa

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2021-11-01

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Abstract

Anthropogenic disturbances are changing the structure and composition of tropical forests worldwide. Multiple disturbances often occur simultaneously in forests. Hunting and logging, for example, are within-forest disturbances that impact vast areas of seemingly intact rainforests. Despite recent work on the individual effects of these disturbances, our understanding of how they interact to influence tree communities is still limited. In northern Republic of Congo, we explored the effects of hunting and logging on tree communities. Over an 8-year period, we monitored 12,552 tree stems (≥10 cm diameter-at-breast height) spread over 30 1-ha plots along a gradient of human disturbance to compare the tree diversity between hunted and logged forest, once-logged forest, and protected forest free of both disturbances. Tree density, species richness, and community composition were affected by both hunting and logging. Forest close to human settlements was richer, more heterogenous, and more dynamic in species composition across censuses. In hunted and logged forest, fast-growing secondary species with low shade tolerance replaced old growth species. Comparatively, the once-logged forest had the greatest stem density and intermediate species richness with an increased density of shade-bearing species over time. Both tree species spatial turnover and tree recruitment were greatly affected by proximity to human settlements. A shift towards abiotically dispersed trees and increasing seed predation by rodents near villages can partly explain the differences in tree recruitment across the forest types. The combination of hunting and logging seems to have a greater impact on tree communities than either single disturbance, especially with nearness to villages.

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10.1016/j.foreco.2021.119571

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Maicher, V, CJ Clark, DJ Harris, VP Medjibe and JR Poulsen (2021). From town to national park: Understanding the long-term effects of hunting and logging on tree communities in Central Africa. Forest Ecology and Management, 499. pp. 119571–119571. 10.1016/j.foreco.2021.119571 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/23687.

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Poulsen

John Poulsen

Associate Professor of Tropical Ecology

John Poulsen is an ecologist with broad interests in the maintenance and regeneration of tropical forests and conservation of biodiversity. His research has focused on the effects of anthropogenic disturbance, such as logging and hunting, on forest structure and diversity, abundance of tropical animals, and ecological processes. He has conducted most of his research in Central Africa, where he has also worked as a conservation manager, directing projects to sustainably manage natural resources in and around parks and reserves, and as the coordinator of government programs to develop low emissions strategies and quantify and monitor forest carbon.


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