Some of us know that on Earth only 30% of tropical forests remain pristine, and that the rest, the so-called “degraded” forests, are used for selective logging and eventually converted into agriculture.
But not all is lost for the latter ones, as a new report from the University of Oxford shows that logged forests are just as ecologically valuable, may be far richer in animal and plant life and should be just as protected as untouched tropical forests.
A team of experts used tens of thousands of camera traps in order to estimate the population density of bird and mammal species in the highly biodiverse states of Sarawak and Sabah in Malaysia, and used the body mass of these animals to calculate the energy flow in both degraded and pristine forests. This reflects the total energy consumption across the food chain.
The tests found that in logged forests, birds and mammals consume 2.5 times more energy than they do in pristine forests, and that almost all of the species found in the old pristine forests were also found in the disturbed forests and most of them had a higher population density, demonstrating that degraded forests are still ecologically valuable and are just as vibrant, or even more vibrant than old-growth forest.
The research team believes that the plants in degraded forests are able to prioritize growth over security, and as more light reaches the ground through the diminished canopy cover, this generates more food on the ground for animals.
Despite the positive outcome of this study, logged forests have less biomass overall and they are likely to be worse at other key factors needed to maintain wider ecosystems, like for example, generating rain.