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Data from: How persistent are the impacts of logging roads on Central African forest vegetation?

Citation

Kleinschroth, Fritz et al. (2017), Data from: How persistent are the impacts of logging roads on Central African forest vegetation?, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.51p4f

Abstract

1. Logging roads can trigger tropical forest degradation by reducing the integrity of the ecosystem and providing access for encroachment. Therefore, road-management is crucial in reconciling selective logging and biodiversity conservation. Most logging roads are abandoned after timber harvesting, however little is known about their long-term impacts on forest vegetation and accessibility, especially in Central Africa. 2. In 11 logging concessions in the Congo Basin we field-sampled a chronosequence of roads that, judged by satellite images, had been abandoned between 1985 and 2015. We assessed recovery of timber resources, tree diversity and above-ground biomass in three zones: the road track, the road edge (where forest had been cleared during road construction) and the adjacent logged forest. 3. The density of commercial timber species ≤ 15 cm DBH was almost three times higher in the road track (327 individuals ha-1) and edge (278) than in the logged adjacent forest (111). Over time, tree species diversity converged to a comparable level between roads and adjacent forests, along with decreasing soil compaction and increasing canopy closure. 4. The average width of forest clearing for road construction was 20 m, covering a total 0.76% of the forest area inside concessions. After 15 years following abandonment, road tracks had recovered 24 Mg ha-1 of above-ground woody biomass, which was 6% of that in the adjacent forest, while road edges had accumulated 167 Mg ha-1 (42%). Ten years after abandonment, roads were no longer penetrable by poachers on motorcycles. Exotic herb species were fully replaced by dominant Marantaceae that have even higher abundance in the adjacent forest. 5. Synthesis and applications. Our evidence of vegetation recovery suggests that logging roads are mostly transient elements in forest landscapes. However, given the slow recovery of biomass on abandoned road tracks, we advocate both reducing the width of forest clearing for road construction and reopening old logging roads for future harvests, rather than building new roads in intact forests. Road edges seem suitable for post-logging silviculture which needs to be assisted by removing dominant herbs during the early years after abandonment while the road track is still accessible

Usage Notes

Location

Congo Basin
Cameroon
Sangha
Central Africa
Republic of Congo