Riparian buffers act as microclimatic refugia in oil palm landscapes

Joseph Williamson*, Eleanor M. Slade, Sarah H. Luke, Tom Swinfield, Arthur Y.C. Chung, David A. Coomes, Herry Heroin, Tommaso Jucker, Owen T. Lewis, Charles S. Vairappan, Stephen J. Rossiter, Matthew J. Struebig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

There is growing interest in the ecological value of set-aside habitats around rivers in tropical agriculture. These riparian buffers typically comprise forest or other non-production habitat, and are established to maintain water quality and hydrological processes, while also supporting biodiversity, ecosystem function and landscape connectivity. We investigated the capacity for riparian buffers to act as microclimatic refugia by combining field-based measurements of temperature, humidity and dung beetle communities with remotely sensed data from LiDAR across an oil palm dominated landscape in Borneo. Riparian buffers offer a cool and humid habitat relative to surrounding oil palm plantations, with wider buffers characterised by conditions comparable to riparian sites in continuous logged forest. High vegetation quality and topographic sheltering were strongly associated with cooler and more humid microclimates in riparian habitats across the landscape. Variance in beetle diversity was also predicted by both proximity-to-edge and microclimatic conditions within the buffer, suggesting that narrow buffers amplify the negative impacts that high temperatures have on biodiversity. Synthesis and applications. Widely legislated riparian buffer widths of 20–30 m each side of a river may provide drier and less humid microclimatic conditions than continuous forest. Adopting wider buffers and maintaining high vegetation quality will ensure set-asides established for hydrological reasons bring co-benefits for terrestrial biodiversity, both now, and in the face of anthropogenic climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-442
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Volume58
Issue number2
Early online date15 Nov 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) through the Human Modified Tropical Forests programme (NE/K016261/1; NE/K016377/1), as well as the Newton‐Ungku Omar Fund via the British Council and Malaysian Industry Government Group for High Technology (216433953). NERC also funded the PhD studentship for J.W. (NE/L002485/1) and research fellowship of T.J. (NE/S01537X/1). We are grateful to the Sabah Biodiversity Council for permission to conduct the fieldwork (S.H.L.: JKM/MBS.1000‐2/2JLD.5(13); J.W.: JKM/MBS.1000‐2/2JLD.7(83); E.M.S.: JKM/MBS.1000‐2/2(381)), Jonathan Parrett for help with dung beetle identification, Sui Peng Heon for translating the abstract into Malay, Matilda Brindle for proof‐reading the manuscript and the South East Asian Rainforest Research Programme staff, who made this work possible: Unding Jami, Johnny Larenus, Amir, Anis, David, Didy, Dino, Joanni, Kiki, Loly, Mudin, Noy and Zul.

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) through the Human Modified Tropical Forests programme (NE/K016261/1; NE/K016377/1), as well as the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund via the British Council and Malaysian Industry Government Group for High Technology (216433953). NERC also funded the PhD studentship for J.W. (NE/L002485/1) and research fellowship of T.J. (NE/S01537X/1). We are grateful to the Sabah Biodiversity Council for permission to conduct the fieldwork (S.H.L.: JKM/MBS.1000-2/2JLD.5(13); J.W.: JKM/MBS.1000-2/2JLD.7(83); E.M.S.: JKM/MBS.1000-2/2(381)), Jonathan Parrett for help with dung beetle identification, Sui Peng Heon for translating the abstract into Malay, Matilda Brindle for proof-reading the manuscript and the South East Asian Rainforest Research Programme staff, who made this work possible: Unding Jami, Johnny Larenus, Amir, Anis, David, Didy, Dino, Joanni, Kiki, Loly, Mudin, Noy and Zul.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society

Copyright:
Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • agriculture
  • biodiversity
  • Borneo
  • climate change
  • habitat fragmentation
  • microclimate
  • riparian buffer
  • tropical forest

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