Logging disturbance shifts net primary productivity and its allocation in Bornean tropical forests

Terhi Riutta, Yadvinder Malhi, Lip Khoon Kho, Toby R. Marthews, Walter Huaraca Huasco, MinSheng Khoo, Sylvester Tan, Edgar Turner, Glen Reynolds, Sabine Both, David F. R. P. Burslem, Yit Arn Teh, Charles S. Vairappan, Noreen Majalap, Robert M. Ewers

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Tropical forests play a major role in the carbon cycle of the terrestrial biosphere. Recent field studies have provided detailed descriptions of the carbon cycle of mature tropical forests, but logged or secondary forests have received much less attention. Here we report the first measures of total net primary productivity (NPP) and its allocation along a disturbance gradient from old-growth forests to moderately and heavily logged forests in Malaysian Borneo. We measured the main NPP components (woody, fine root and canopy NPP) in old-growth (n=6) and logged (n=5) 1 ha forest plots. Overall, the total NPP did not differ between old-growth and logged forest (13.5 ± 0.5 and 15.7 ± 1.5 Mg C ha-1 year-1 , respectively). However, logged forests allocated significantly higher fraction into woody NPP at the expense of the canopy NPP (42% and 48% into woody and canopy NPP, respectively, in old-growth forest vs. 66% and 23% in logged forest). When controlling for local stand structure, NPP in logged forest stands was 41% higher, and woody NPP was 150% higher than in old-growth stands with similar basal area, but this was offset by structure effects (higher gap frequency and absence of large trees in logged forest). This pattern was not driven by species turnover: the average woody NPP of all species groups within logged forest (pioneers, non-pioneers, species unique to logged plots and species shared with old-growth plots) was similar. Hence, below a threshold of very heavy disturbance, logged forests can exhibit higher NPP and higher allocation to wood; such shifts in carbon cycling persist for decades after the logging event. Given that the majority of tropical forest biome has experienced some degree of logging, our results demonstrate that logging can cause substantial shifts in carbon production and allocation in tropical forests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2913-2928
Number of pages16
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number7
Early online date21 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

This study was part of the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystem (SAFE) Project, funded by the Sime Darby Foundation, and the Biodiversity And Land‐use Impacts on tropical ecosystem function (BALI) Project (NE/K016377/1) within the NERC Human‐Modified Tropical Forests Programme. This paper is also a product of the GEM network (gem.tropicalforests.ox.ac.uk). We are grateful to Rostin Jantan, SAFE Carbon Team and SAFE Project staff, Alexander Karolus and the Danum 50 ha plot team, and Xyxtus Tan, Nasir Muhi and Abilano Deres for fieldwork assistance. We thank Bernadus Bala Ola and Dr Bill McDonald for the tree species identification. Dr. Reuben Nilus and Dr. Robert Ong at the Forest Research Centre, Sabah Forestry Department, kindly helped us access the historical forest inventory records. Maliau Basin and Danum Valley Management Committees, Royal Society South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP), Sabah Foundation, Benta Wawasan, the State Secretary, Sabah Chief Minister's Departments, Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Biodiversity Council, and the Economic Planning Unit are acknowledged for their support and access to the sites in Sabah. The sites in Lambir were supported by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and Centre for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS) in collaboration with HSBC Climate Partnership. The 52 ha Long‐Term Ecological Research Project in Lambir is a collaborative project of the Forest Department of Sarawak, Malaysia, the Center for Tropical Forest Science of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, USA (NSF awards DEB‐9107247 and DEB‐9629601), and Osaka City, Ehime & Kyoto Universities, Japan (Monbusho grants 06041094, 08NP0901 and 09NP0901). The Danum 50 ha plot is a core project of SEARRP. We thank HSBC Malaysia and the University of Zurich for funding and CTFS for support. YM is supported by the Jackson Foundation and European Research Council Advanced Investigator Grant, GEM‐TRAIT (321131). This article is a contribution to Imperial College's Grand Challenges in Ecosystems and the Environment Initiative.


  • Journal Article
  • allocation
  • carbon
  • land use
  • logging
  • net primary productivity
  • tree census
  • SAFE Project
  • Global Ecosystems Monitoring


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