Deforestation squeezes top predators in forest streams

by Imperial College London

Streams in areas converted to oil palm have different top predators to those flowing through intact forests, affecting stream food webs.

Logging and deforestation are known to affect biodiversity and species richness, but a new study shows how these may create trouble for local ecosystems by affecting the food chain length.

Ecosystems like streams provide valuable ‘ecosystem services’, such as provision of fresh water and food and flood prevention, which could be diminished if food chains are altered and the ecosystem fails to function as normal.

A team of researchers led by Imperial College London and the National University of Singapore studied 19 streams in Borneo, in an area with a variety of land uses – primary forest, partially logged areas and full conversion to oil palm plantation – known as the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) Project. Their study is published today in the journal Ecology.

They found that top predators were disproportionally affected by deforestation, with fewer predator links in the food chain in oil palm plantation streams. The researchers found that this was caused by a change in the type of predators.

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