Effect of fragmentation of kerangas forest on small mammal community structure in Brunei Darussalam
AbstractWidespread and rapid forest loss and disturbance have resulted in increased fragmentation of tropical forests. The impacts of forest disturbance and fragmentation on small mammals have been widely studied across the tropics and these studies have highlighted the detrimental effects. However, there is limited understanding on the impacts on small mammals in Borneo. This study investigated the impacts of fragmentation on small mammal community structure in lowland coastal heath forests known as kerangas forests, in Brunei Darussalam. Twelve study sites were compared in three forest types: fragmented (2.07-17.6 ha), disturbed (443.55-483.79 ha) and undisturbed (>500 ha) forests. In addition, the correlations between species richness, abundance and biomass of small mammals, and forest size were investigated. There was a clear change in species composition in the different forest types. Fragmented forests had the lowest species richness but the highest pooled abundance and biomass compared with disturbed and undisturbed forests. Species richness increased with forest size as predicted by the theory of island biogeography. In contrast, abundance and biomass was negatively correlated to forest size. Factors that contribute to the pronounced decline in species richness in fragmented forests include loss of rare and native forest species, reduced forest size in fragmented forests and distance effect. We suggest that a release from top-down control by predators and favourable conditions as a result from forest fragmentation are responsible for higher abundance and biomass of small mammals in fragmented forests.