There has been additional international media attention for the article in Ecology Letters (Blackwell Publishing) on the loss of diversity in tropical trees due to the hunting on animals in tropical forests. The article was submitted by an international research team, of which Professor Akira Itoh of the Osaka City University (OCU) Graduate School of Science is part.
The article presents the outcomes of a long-term joint-research project on Borneo Island, started in 1990, by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Dr. Stuart Davies, Sylvester Tan), OCU Graduate School of Science (Dr. Akira Itoh) and the Malaysia Sarawak Forest Department. The research is part of the “Global Program for Long-Term Large-Scale Forest Research” by the Smithsonian Center for Tropical Forest Science.
The international research team closely surveyed the Lambir Hills National Park, a tropical rainforest on Borneo Island, for 15 years and revealed the changes in the forest where animals disappeared at a fast pace. Because the number of animals that eat seeds and seedlings declined, the number of tree saplings increased, but tree diversity decreased. Also, the saplings of trees that depend on animals for seed dispersion started growing closer together, since there were fewer animals to disperse the seeds. As trees that grow close together are more vulnerable to disease and insect damage there is a risk that in the future the number of these trees will decline. This the first time research has shown the concrete impact of animal hunting on tree diversity in a tropical forest, but as this is likely happening in similar forests all over the world, it is something that certainly solicits more research.
Professor Akira Itoh, Osaka City University Graduate School of Science, Plant Ecology Laboratory