Optimized Floating Refugia: a new strategy for species conservation in production forest landscapes
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Timber production forests can support diverse ecological communities, but existing conservation strategies fail to maximize this potential. While methods for limiting logging damage and locating biological reserves have been developed, strategies focused on the sequence and arrangement of harvest units are lacking, particularly for situations in which species-specific knowledge is limited. We present a new landscape-level approach to forest conservation that anticipates local extinctions and focuses on facilitating re-colonization via strategic spatiotemporal harvest plans (which are informed by species occurrence data only). As a proof of concept, we applied our framework to data from four tropical forest sites and found clear benefits of optimized spatiotemporal harvest plans relative to non-optimized harvest plans (random and three pattern-based plans). Our proposed approach, termed the Optimized Floating Refugia strategy, requires minimal species-specific knowledge and can be used to enhance existing conservation efforts (e.g. biological reserve establishment, reduced-impact logging). The approach effectively prioritizes logging-sensitive habitat specialists with restricted ranges and thus provides the largest benefits to the most extinction-prone species. This simple but novel method shows promise as a general strategy to improve biodiversity conservation in species-rich production forest landscapes.
KeywordsBiodiversity Forest management Landscape-level planning Logging Spatiotemporal harvest planning Tropical forest
We thank D. Sheil and K. L. O’Hara for valuable feedback prior to manuscript submission, and the Center for Tropical Forest Science for providing data from their research plots (see Supplementary Online Resource 1 for extended acknowledgements). This research was funded by the Global Environment Facility through UNDP Malaysia (MAL/04/G31) and the International Tropical Timber Organization [PD 16502 Rev.3 (F)], with in-kind financial assistance and support from the Government of Malaysia through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and Forest Research Institute Malaysia.
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