Near-complete extinction of fauna
29 Sep 2014. NUS researchers recorded dramatic loss of biodiversity.
Deforestation is expanding throughout the tropics and has converted the biologically richest habitat on the planet into a landscape of forest patches surrounded by a sea of agriculture. Although these forest fragments sustain some biodiversity, much is lost over time. But just how rapidly do species disappear from forest fragments? This study answered that key question by resurveying islands in a reservoir, and found the near-complete extinction of an entire guild of animals after just 25 years of isolation.
PhD student Luke GIBSON and Prof David BICKFORD from the Department of Biological Sciences in NUS led an international team that studied the vulnerability of fragmented forest landscapes to rapid biodiversity loss. Luke's PhD study suggests that in order to preserve tropical biodiversity, efforts must be taken to preserve large intact forest areas and to restore connectivity in fragmented landscapes quickly.
These catastrophic extinctions were probably partly driven by an invasive rat species; such biotic invasions are becoming increasingly common in human-modified landscapes. The results of this research are thus particularly relevant to other fragmented forest landscapes and suggest that small fragments are potentially even more vulnerable to biodiversity loss than previously thought.
Image shows Luke Gibson releases a moonrat (Echinosorex gymnura) from a trap. [Image credit: Luke Gibson]
Gibson L, AJ Lynam, CJA Bradshaw, F He, DP Bickford, DS Woodruff, S Bumrungsri, WF Laurance. "Near-complete extinction of native small mammal fauna 25 years after forest fragmentation." Science 341 (2013) 1508.