We aim to study the consequences of rainforest transformation at the level of intraspecific diversity. Our approach to assess intraspecific diversity patterns in different transformation systems takes the different species composition in the investigated systems and sites into consideration. We aim to assess intraspecific diversity in different transformation systems by the investigation of dominant vascular plant species with different taxonomic and phylogenetic positions and life history traits (growth forms, mating systems, longevity, etc.) and to test the hypothesis that a decline of species diversity from reference forests to oil palm plantations is mirrored by a decline of intraspecific diversity of the plant species dominating the respective systems.
We plan to select ten dominant plant species (woody species and herbaceous plants including ferns) in each of the 32 core sites based on rough estimates of above-ground biomass. Species will be morphologically identified; the species status will by confirmed by DNA barcoding as necessary. Ten plants from each species will be sampled at each core site; total sample size will be 32 core sites x 10 species/core site x 10 plants/species = 3200 plants. Amplified Fragment Length polymorphisms (AFLPs) will be used as an anonymous fingerprinting method applicable to all species with minor modifications to assess genetic diversity. We expect different species compositions not only between the four transformation systems, but also between the two landscapes (Harapan Rainforest and Taman Nasional Bukit Duabelas) and the replicates within landscapes. Accordingly, our results will allow only few meaningful comparisons within species. They will primarily be interpreted at the level of the different transformation systems, taking different life history traits of plants into consideration.
Long-term perspectives are to focus on particular species to better understand the dynamics of intraspecific variation, to assess the importance of intraspecific diversity of plants for other aspects of biodiversity and for ecosystem functions and services, and to eventually develop strategies to enhance or maintain plant genetic diversity in tropical landscapes.
Ecology and nature conservation