Many of the world’s tropical forests are affected by logging. These forests are frequently considered degraded because they have lost vegetation structure, biomass, and carbon stocks. There has rarely been an examination of whether the ecological health and functionality of these ecosystems are also deteriorating.
According to a new study by University of Oxford researchers, logged rainforests are treasure troves of healthy ecological function. It should not be written off for oil palm plantations.
According to lead author Yadvinder Malhi, Professor of Ecosystem Science at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute, “We were astounded by how much more energy flowed through logged forests than through old-growth forests. It flowed through the same diverse range of species as in old-growth forests. We had not expected the logged forest to be so alive with life.”
The study is named as “Logged tropical forests have amplified and diverse ecosystem energetics”. It was published in Nature. The study addressed this issue from the standpoint of ecosystem energetics. ecosystem energetics are the cascade of energy from plants to mammals and birds via the food they consume.
The study discovered that the ecological energy flow through the logged forest was 2.5 times that of the old-growth forest. This energy is before collapsing in the oil palm plantations. Almost all bird and mammal species were found in similar or higher densities in the logged forest.
The authors emphasise that old-growth forests still have enormous ecological value and high carbon stocks. These forests should be preserved as much as possible. But, this study calls into question the classification of logged forests as “degraded” when they are so ecologically vibrant. Such labelling may imply that these logged forest landscapes are regarded as less important for conservation and are cleared to make way for agriculture such as oil palm.
Professor Malhi concludes, “Not everything that appears broken is broken in tropical forests.”
The study required meticulous counting of nearly all bird and mammal species in the remote study sites and as well as measurements of tree growth rates, leaves, and roots.