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Data from: The ecological implications of rubber-based agroforest: insect conservation and invasion control

Citation

Lee, Roger; Wang, Chase Liu-Wei; Guénard, Benoit (2020), Data from: The ecological implications of rubber-based agroforest: insect conservation and invasion control, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.r4xgxd28r

Abstract

1. Protected areas are increasingly threatened by biological invasions, especially in Tropical Asia where extensive areas of natural habitats have been converted to monoculture plantations. Such disturbance provides a gateway for exotic species invasions, highlighting an urgent need for cross-boundary solutions to mitigate invasion impacts. 2. Agroforests, with multi-storied trees and crops resembling the complex structure of natural forest, are well-known to promote native species compared to monoculture plantations. Yet our knowledge on their roles in controlling exotic species is limited to plant invaders, with effects on animal invaders still unknown. Given that protected areas are increasingly threatened by invaders from surrounding plantations, with a majority of them represented by insects, it is important to evaluate the effect of agroforestry practice, and mechanisms of associated management to control invasions. 3. By using both taxonomic and functional trait-based approaches, we studied leaf litter ant communities in 12 rubber monoculture (mono-rubber), 9 rubber plantation with understory crops (agro-rubber), 16 secondary, and 12 old-growth secondary forest plots in and around protected areas in Hainan, China. Sampled ants were further classified into groups based on their invasive potential (tramp vs non-tramp) to determine the ecological values of agro-rubber. 4. We found that despite mono-rubber and agro-rubber presenting similar species richness, the latter 1) supports species composition and functional diversity more similar to secondary forests, and 2) reduces tramp ant species occurrence, a novel management incentive. Nonetheless, agro-rubber is not comparable to secondary forest in terms of non-tramp ant species composition. 5. Synthesis and applications. If it is not feasible to preserve natural forests in human-dominated landscapes against the growing threat of biological invasion, proactive mitigation through increasing the area of agro-rubber at the periphery of protected areas can reduce invasive species’ establishment and spread. Plantation-based agroforestry has emerged as a potential management avenue and incentive for transforming monoculture plantations into a less “harmful” alternative.