Proximity of human settlements and roads to tropical forests, as well as sustainable management, is key in the maintenance of their biodiversity and wider ecosystem services, according to a new study. It also concludes that certified sustainably managed forest can complement protected areas in terms of conservation.
‘Conservation value of tropical forests: Distance to human settlements matters more than management in Central Africa’ was undertaken by Simon Lhoest of the University of Liege – Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech. The latter has worked with ATIBT and is involved in the DynAfFor biodiversity conservation project in Central Africa. The report is based on research in south-east Cameroon, looking at the impacts of land use on forest biodiversity and provision of ecosystem services to local populations. The biodiversity of a protected reserve was compared to that of an FSC-certified logging concession, managed by Pallisco, and three community forests under the stewardship of local people. Inventories of mammal and dung beetle populations were used as biodiversity indicators.
The research concluded that proximity to villages and roads resulted in community forests having the lowest species richness. These areas were subject to high hunting pressure, which had a negative impact on fauna populations. Most endangered mammals actually disappeared and others in the areas also had a lower body mass. Biodiversity was stronger in both the protected area and the FSC-certified concession. At the same time, the report found ‘high spatial turnover’ of species between these forest areas, meaning species moved in and out of them. From this it concluded that conservation initiatives should work across many interconnected sites in order to protect the full species range, as opposed to focusing on isolated areas.
“High turnover for both mammal and dung beetle species in our results supports applying conservation initiatives over a large number of different sites, with a priority on protected and remote areas of high biodiversity,” states the report. It also says that production forest around protected areas can act as a ‘crucial buffer’ in species protection. “If strictly protected forest patches are not connected with production forests in a larger forest matrix, no conservation intervention is likely to be sufficient,” it says. “Connected to protected areas, production forests offer the chance to conserve many ecosystem services, functions, and species. They cover a high proportion of forest lands and show lower opportunity costs than protected areas.”
Read the full report here.