Decoupling the effects of logging and hunting on an Afrotropical animal community Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • In tropical forests, hunting nearly always accompanies logging. The entangled nature of these disturbances complicates our ability to resolve applied questions, such as whether secondary and degraded forest can sustain populations of tropical animals. With the expansion of logging in central Africa, conservation depends on knowledge of the individual and combined impacts of logging and hunting on animal populations. Our goals were (1) to decouple the effects of selective logging and hunting on densities of animal guilds, including apes, duikers, monkeys, elephant, pigs, squirrels, and large frugivorous and insectivorous birds and (2) to compare the relative importance of these disturbances to the effects of local-scale variation in forest structure and fruit abundance. In northern Republic of Congo, we surveyed animals along 30 transects positioned in forest disturbed by logging and hunting, logging alone, and neither logging nor hunting. While sampling transects twice per month for two years, we observed 47 179 animals of 19 species and eight guilds in 1154 passages (2861 km). Species densities varied by as much as 480% among forest areas perturbed by logging and/or hunting, demonstrating the strong effects of these disturbances on populations of some species. Densities of animal guilds varied more strongly with disturbance type than with variation in forest structure, canopy cover, and fruit abundance. Independently, logging and hunting decreased density of some guilds and increased density of others: densities varied from 44% lower (pigs) to 90% higher (insectivorous birds) between logged and unlogged forest and from 61% lower (apes) to 77% higher (frugivorous birds) between hunted and unhunted forest. Their combined impacts exacerbated decreases in populations of some guilds (ape, duiker, monkey, and pig), but counteracted one another for others (squirrels, insectivorous and frugivorous birds). Together, logging and hunting shifted the relative abundance of the animal community away from large mammals toward squirrels and birds. Logged forest, even in the absence of hunting, does not maintain similar densities as unlogged forest for most animal guilds. To balance conservation with the need for economic development and wild meat in tropical countries, landscapes should be spatially managed to include protected areas, community hunting zones, and production forest.

publication date

  • July 2011