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Can species richness be maintained in logged endemic Acacia Heterophylla forests (Reunion Island, Indian Ocean) ?

Baret S., Le Bourgeois T., Rivière J.N., Pailler T., Sarrailh J.M., Strasberg D.. 2007. Revue d'Ecologie, 62 (4) : p. 273-284.

It is assumed that forests can serve multiple uses, including wood production and maintenance of high biodiversity level. We tested this hypothesis by studying eradication methods of invasive plants currently implemented in exploited endemic Acacia heterophylla forests located in a tropical highland forest region on the island of Réunion. We also compared species richness in logged (over time) and natural forests. Our results show that all individuals of the widespread alien invasive plant Rubus alceifolius were generated from cuttings. We quantifi ed the high growth capability of this species by comparing with those of Acacia heterophylla along with Rubus apetalus var. apetalus, a close non-invasive congener. The substantial multiplicative and vegetative growth ability of R. alceifolius enabled it to form monospecific patches in only 2.5 years. The species richness of the exploited Acacia heterophylla forest was thus very affected. Although the species richness increased over time after logging, the extent of the resulting richness was not as great as that in natural forests which, moreover, included numerous exotic plants. The authors assess the impact of highly disturbing logging operations and, based on the results of the comparisons, are very pessimistic about the possibility of maintaining species richness in logged forests. Nevertheless, the results indicate that the situation is not beyond hope and an eradication program specifi cally tailored to this kind of forest is proposed if exploitation will stop.

Mots-clés : biodiversité; organisme indigène; forêt de production; réunion; rubus alceifolius; acacia heterophylla

Thématique : Conservation de la nature et ressources foncières; Production forestière

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