Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.581296
Title: Disturbance, recovery and resilience in tropical forests : a focus on the coastal peat swamp forests of Malaysian Borneo
Author: Cole, Lydia Eve Spencer
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Abstract:
Tropical forests have existed for up to one hundred million years, and today provide many ecosystem services vital for human well-being. They also harbour great biodiversity, which, in addition to its intrinsic value, plays a key role in the functioning of these ecosystems. Despite their local to global significance, there are still many knowledge gaps concerning the dynamic processes that govern the functioning of tropical forests. Rapid rates of deforestation and landscape conversion, predominantly for logging and industrial agriculture, are limiting the time and opportunity available to collect the information needed to fill these gaps. This research aims to shed light on the long-term ecological functioning of tropical forests, specifically investigating the history of disturbance in these ecosystems and the response of forest vegetation to past perturbations. The carbon-rich tropical peat swamp forests found along the coast of Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, are a central focus of this study. For these forests in particular, a large deficit of knowledge surrounding their history and unique ecological functioning is coupled with some of the highest conversion rates of all tropical forest ecosystems across the world. In this thesis, palaeoecological data has been used to reconstruct temporal variability in forest vegetation coincident with external perturbations in order to identify changes in the resilience of these ecosystems through time, via indicators such as slowing rates of recovery and reduced regeneration of forest vegetation. Results suggest that tropical forest ecosystems have, for the most part, shown resilience to natural disturbances in the past, ranging from instantaneous localised tree-fall to longer-term regional climatic change; but that recent anthropogenic disturbances, of novel forms and greater intensities, are jeopardizing the potential for forest recovery and thus compromising ecosystem resilience. These findings enhance our understanding of the ecology of tropical peat swamp forests, and tropical forests more broadly. They also provide a context for contemporary tropical forest management, allowing for predictions on future responses to disturbance and enabling more ecologically sustainable landscape planning.
Supervisor: Willis, Katherine J.; Bhagwat, Shonil A. Sponsor: NERC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.581296  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Asia ; Botanical sciences (see Plant sciences) ; Biodiversity ; Environmental change ; Evolution,ecology and systematics ; tropical forest ; peat swamp forest ; peatland ; long-term ecology ; disturbance dynamics ; Sarawak ; Malaysia ; Southeast Asia ; resilience ; fossil pollen ; vegetation change ; fire ; climate change ; sustainable management ; biodiversity conservation
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