Plantations of exotic trees might cause problems for local wildlife

In ecology, edge effect research investigates how biological populations or communities change at the boundary of two or more habitats

Eucalyptus trees along a road in Bogura. Eucalyptus is not an autochthonous tree species of Bangladesh and is considered as harmful for the local plantation and ecologySoel Rana

According to an international study, initiatives that use non-native tree species can have an impact on tropical insects in neighbouring forests.

The study is published in the journal, “Forest Ecology and Management”

Scientists at the University of Bristol and the Federal University of Western Para, in Brazil, have found that Eucalyptus plantation edge effects radiate up to 800 meters into the interior of nearby Amazonian forests, when applied ecologically important dung beetles.

As the world seeks to mitigate human-induced climate change, planted forests have become a widespread restoration strategy across the globe.

However, the findings, published today in Forest Ecology and Management, suggest that while well-intentioned, exotic tree plantations can have a wider influence on the native biodiversity of hyperdiverse tropical forests.

In ecology, edge effect research investigates how biological populations or communities change at the boundary of two or more habitats.

To further understand the edge effect, the team of scientists travelled to the Amazon Rainforest and collected over 3,700 dung beetles from 49 species to evaluate how Eucalyptus plantations affect the insect biodiversity in neighbouring Amazonian forests.

“Our findings for dung beetles offer new insights into the importance of considering how proximity to exotic tree plantations can affect tropical forest biodiversity,” said Filipe Franca of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, and co-supervisor of the lead author.

He said: “Importantly, edge effects varied across dung beetle responses and were species-specific. For example, we found more dung beetle species far away from Eucalyptus plantations, but some species also thrived and had higher abundances closer to plantation edges.”

This means that some dung beetles may be more sensitive to changes in forest environment closer to exotic tree plantations than other edge-affiliated and generalist species.

“Understanding multi-species responses to anthropogenic disturbances are crucial for tackling the current biodiversity crisis and our findings are vital for forest managers and conservation planners aiming to maintain forest-specialist biodiversity in native ecosystems across the tropics,” explained Professor Rodrigo Fadini from the Federal University of Western Para.