Maximizing the value of forest restoration for tropical mammals by detecting three-dimensional habitat associations

Nicolas J. Deere, Gurutzeta Guillera-arroita, Tom Swinfield, David T. Milodowski, David A. Coomes, Henry Bernard, Glen Reynolds, Zoe G. Davies, Matthew J. Struebig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Tropical forest ecosystems are facing unprecedented levels of degradation, severely compromising habitat suitability for wildlife. Despite the fundamental role biodiversity plays in forest regeneration, identifying and prioritizing degraded forests for restoration or conservation, based on their wildlife value, remains a significant challenge. Efforts to characterize habitat selection are also weakened by simple classifications of human-modified tropical forests as intact vs. degraded, which ignore the influence that three-dimensional (3D) forest structure may have on species distributions. Here, we develop a framework to identify conservation and restoration opportunities across logged forests in Borneo. We couple high-resolution airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) and camera trap data to characterize the response of a tropical mammal community to changes in 3D forest structure across a degradation gradient. Mammals were most responsive to covariates that accounted explicitly for the vertical and horizontal characteristics of the forest and actively selected structurally complex environments comprising tall canopies, increased plant area index throughout the vertical column, and the availability of a greater diversity of niches. We show that mammals are sensitive to structural simplification through disturbance, emphasizing the importance of maintaining and enhancing structurally intact forests. By calculating occurrence thresholds of species in response to forest structural change, we identify areas of degraded forest that would provide maximum benefit for multiple high-conservation value species if restored. The study demonstrates the advantages of using LiDAR to map forest structure, rather than relying on overly simplistic classifications of human-modified tropical forests, for prioritizing regions for restoration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202001823
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sep 2020

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