1. There is considerable debate about whether tropical forests can be managed for timber production and to conserve biodiversity. Few 'sustainable forestry' systems have been evaluated adequately in this respect. Microchiropteran bats may be model taxa for this purpose. They are an important component of mammalian diversity, play key roles in forest dynamics and are indicators of disturbance in neotropical forests.
2. We investigated the effect of Trinidad's periodic block system (PBS) on bat species diversity and community organization. PBS is a polycyclic system of selective logging with a 30-year harvesting rotation. We captured bats in primary forest and PBS-managed forest logged 33, 31, 21, 20 and 10 years previously.
3. Selective logging did not affect species diversity but did affect community structure. Frugivorous bats were significantly more abundant in logged forest whereas gleaning animalivores were more abundant in primary forest, suggesting that frugivores benefited and gleaning animalivores were adversely affected by logging.
4. The bat community showed evidence of recovery. The number of years since forest disturbance was positively correlated with the abundance and number of species of gleaning animalivores and negatively correlated with the proportional abundance of the most common species. Gleaning animalivores increased in abundance with forest regeneration, whereas the community became less dominated by a single generalist frugivore.
5. Synthesis and applications. PBS selective logging appears to be compatible with the conservation of bat diversity. This provides evidence that neotropical forests can be managed for timber production in an ecologically sustainable way and that significant biodiversity conservation efforts can occur outside national parks and nature reserves in areas set aside for sustainable development. PBS could serve as a basic blueprint for sustainable forestry in the Guianan Shield where there are forests similar in species composition to those of Trinidad. Key attributes that could be adopted by many tropical countries to manage their forests in an ecologically sustainable way are a low intensity harvest, a long rotation and multiple controls on harvesting.
- biodiversity conservation
- forest disturbance
- TROPICAL RAIN-FORESTS