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Durham University

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Hölting, M., Bovolo, C.I. & Ernst, R. (2016). Facing Complexity in Tropical Conservation: Effects of Reduced Impact Logging and Climate Extremes on Beta Diversity in Tropical Amphibian Assemblages. Biotropica 48(4): 528-536.

Author(s) from Durham


Biodiversity in pristine forest biomes is increasingly disturbed by human activity. Drivers such as logging and climate extremes are thought to collectively erode diversity, but their interactions are not well understood. However, ignoring such complexities may result in poor conservation management decisions. Here, we present the first study dealing with the complexity arising from the effects of interactions of two increasingly important disturbance factors (selective logging and climatic extreme events) on beta diversity patterns at different scales. Specifically, we examined extensive amphibian assemblage datasets obtained within a quasi-experimental pre-/post-harvesting scheme in the lowland rainforests of Central Guyana. Changes in small-scale patterns of beta diversity were not detectable at the higher landscape level, indicating that local-scale dynamics are more informative for evaluating disturbance impacts. The results also underscore the importance of including abundance data when investigating homogenization or heterogenization effects, which should be considered when designing post-logging impact assessments and selecting impact indicators. Moreover, logging should be regarded as a multifaceted driver that contributes to changes in biodiversity patterns in different ways, depending on interactions with other drivers. The effects of extreme climate events were significantly more pronounced in unlogged forest, while logged forest assemblages appeared buffered due to the presence of novel habitats. Imprudent post-logging renaturation measures may thus counteract conservation targets. These findings highlight the fact that indicator bias and unaccounted interactions between multiple drivers can lead to misguided management strategies.