Motion-sensitive cameras catch a leopard cat hunting in a logged forest in Borneo. Photo by Oliver Wearn/ICL
LONDON, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- A logged forest isn't a lost forest, new research reveals. In recent surveys, scientists from Imperial College London found a surprising number of endangered species living in logged forests in Borneo.
The forests in question aren't clear cut, but "selectively logged." Only a specific tree species is removed. Often, conservationists labels these forests as "degraded." When agricultural interests lobby for more land, these forests are the first to be sacrificed.
The latest findings, detailed in the journal Ecological Applications, suggest these forests are tremendously undervalued.
Scientists surveyed biodiversity levels in both old growth and selectively logged forests using trap-and-release techniques as well as motion sensor cameras. Researchers monitored species numbers for three years.
The biologists found large predators like cloud leopards and civets were just as common in logged forests as protected old growth forests. Smaller animals like squirrels and rodents were actually more abundant in logged forests.
Scientists hypothesize that the higher biodiversity is enabled by the variety of habitat types in logged forests.
"The logging process creates a greater variation in habitat types in a smaller area, from untouched areas on steep slopes to completely denuded areas of open grassland," lead researcher Oliver Wearn said in a news release. "Old-growth forests would likely have the same diversity if we looked at them on a much larger scale."
Wearn says he and his research partners can't be sure the biodiversity found in logged forests is sustainable long-term.
"What we can say from this study is that protecting those large areas of forest that have already been logged could help conserve mammal species better than preserving fragmented pockets of forests inside oil palm landscapes," Wearn added.
Wearn says large portions of old growth forest should remain the top priority for conservationists, but that doesn't mean logged forests should be ignored. The new research is proof that conservationists should be thinking about protecting and rehabilitating logged forests, too, not giving up on them.