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The effects of fragmentation on foliar defensive traits and insect herbivory rates in dipterocarp seedlings

Lois Kinneen, Roger Kitching, Hamish McCallum, University, My
Human-modified landscapes are ubiquitous and often made up of remnant fragments of natural ecosystems nested within an agricultural or urban matrix. Understanding how species are affected by habitat degradation is a central issue in biodiversity research, yet investigations into the impacts on key ecological interactions have not kept pace. Gaining insight into the responses of ecological processes is vital in order to maximise biodiversity conservation and develop sustainable management
more » ... e management practices in a changing world. Herbivory is a fundamental ecosystem process as it mediates the transfer of energy between primary production and higher trophic levels. In tropical rainforests herbivory is primarily carried out by insects. Here, I investigate how leaf damage changes over time by carrying out repeated measures of herbivory following fragmentation. In doing so, I build upon previous 'snapshot' studies which have primarily quantified leaf damage at single points in time. An experiment was established within a large-scale manipulation experiment: the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) project in the Malaysian state of Sabah, within Borneo. I used seedlings of two species of endemic Dipterocarpaceae as the study system for two main reasons. Firstly, seedlings represent the most vulnerable life stage in a tree's life cycle, and therefore insect herbivory may be a major determinant of their growth and survival. Secondly, not only do members of the family Dipterocarpaceae dominate in lowland tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia, most are economically valued for their timber and are consequently under pressure from logging which is leading to conservation concern. Five hundred and seventy-six seedlings were planted in 12 recently isolated one hectare fragments and 12 continuous forest control sites. Eight of these control sites were located in an area of continuous forest estimated to be over one million hectares north of the experimental landscape of the SAFE project. Four further control sites were establish [...]
doi:10.25904/1912/1101 fatcat:gc24f7uwwrhfno2tknnr6l6lqi