Joseph Williamson
Biodiversity and Ecology
PhD Research

Investigating the Efficacy of Riparian Reserves for Maintaining Invertebrate Biodiversity in a Fragmented Tropical Landscape

Global tropical forest cover continues to decline at an alarming rate, in part due to oil palm expansion in Southeast Asia. In an area of the world with high levels of biodiversity and endemism, the conversion of these natural systems into agricultural plantations is of grave concern for conservationists. Oil palm monoculture has been repeatedly demonstrated to have lower biodiversity and ecosystem functioning than old growth and logged forests. In many countries, buffers of forest are retained around rivers during the conversion of natural systems into agricultural ones. These strips of forest, or riparian reserves, are primarily designed to protect aquatic systems from runoff, however there is increasing evidence that these zones may also protect aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity. Here I propose studying three functionally important groups of terrestrial invertebrates (moths, dung beetles and termites) to assess the conservational efficacy of riparian reserves in fragmented oil palm landscapes in Sabah, Malaysia. I aim to help characterise invertebrate biodiversity and ecosystem function in riparian buffers compared to oil palm and continuous forest. Further, I aim to assess the potential for riparian reserves to act as ecological corridors for invertebrate species, using both traditional sampling techniques and through population genetic analyses.
Stephen Rossiter
Paul Eggleton
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