Diversity and dynamics of vascular epiphytes and arthropods in oil palm plantations in Sumatra, Indonesia

The humid tropics in Southeast Asia harbor an outstanding number of species including large numbers of endemics, but biodiversity in this region is threatened by high rates of deforestation. Indonesia is one of the two main producers of palm oil. The transformation from natural forests to (palm oil) monocultures inevitably leads to various changes in the concerned landscape, especially regarding species composition, ecological interactions, and microclimatic conditions.

In my Master thesis I investigate biodiversity patterns and processes in oil palm plantations, which may act as refuges for some species, in the province Jambi, Sumatra. The focus is on epiphytes and associated ants, following to answer the main questions:

  • Do species numbers and abundances of these model groups change with age of oil palm plantations?
  • Does the occurrence of epiphytes correlate with the occurrence of ants?
  • Which factors influence species abundance and composition on palm oil trunks?
  • What is the conservation value of palm oil plantations in Sumatra?