Indonesia: Research in Borneo Shows Some Bat Species Resilient to Habitat Destruction

Jakarta Globe 18 Sep 13;

New research conducted by academics from the University of Kent in the UK has determined that rainforests in Borneo that have been subjected to repeated logging are still valuable from a biodiversity standpoint and may play an important role in conservation.

Matthew Struebig and Anthony Turner from the University of Kent’s Durrell Institute of Conservation Ecology (DICE) said on Wednesday in a statement that their findings challenged the long-held belief that heavily logged forests have limited, if any, conservation potential.

The research, which monitored bats as an indicator for environmental change on Borneo, is the first of its kind to monitor wildlife in forests logged more than two times.

Struebig who is also a lecturer in Biological Conservation from DICE, explained that recent studies have emphasized similar numbers of species living in unlogged and logged sites.

“But what surprised us, was just how resilient some species were, even in sites almost unrecognizable as rainforest,” he said.

Only by viewing forest sites along a gradient of logging disturbances — ranging from pristine to heavily degraded — was the team able to detect a gradual decline of some key bat species.

The research confirmed the most vulnerable bats were those that tend to live in the cavities of old growth trees. By linking bat captures with vegetation measurements from nearby plots, the researchers were able to reveal how these animals declined as successive rounds of logging took their toll on forest structure, and crucially, the availability of tree cavities.

Although logging damage was clearly detrimental to some of the species studied, the findings also offer some hope for forest restoration efforts.

“Across the tropics there is increasing investment to restore the timber and wildlife in logged rain forests,” said Struebig. “For biodiversity, simple measures, such as setting artificial nest boxes for bats and birds may, if guided by research, help bring some species back to the numbers found in unlogged areas”, he said.

Malaysian, Indonesian and Canadian researchers, in addition to scientists from the University of Kent and the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, assisted in the project.

The statement said that the study is the first field data to be published from the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems Project in Sabah, Malaysia – a new landscape experiment which combines the efforts of more than 100 researchers around the world to investigate the impacts of logging, deforestation and forest fragmentation in the natural world.