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Keywords:

  • canopy gap dynamics;
  • French Guiana;
  • functional diversity;
  • functional evenness;
  • functional traits;
  • disturbance;
  • light partitioning;
  • species richness;
  • tropical rain forest

Summary

1. Considerable debate surrounds the extent to which tropical forests can be managed for resource extraction while conserving biodiversity and ecosystem properties, which depend on functional composition. Here we evaluate the compatibility of these aims by examining the effects of logging on taxonomic and functional diversity and composition in a tropical forest.

2. Twenty years after selective logging, we inventoried 4140 stems regenerating in logging gaps and adjacent undisturbed areas, and we integrated a database of 13 functional traits describing leaf and wood economics of tropical trees.

3. We found no differences in taxonomic and functional richness among habitats, but logging gaps had significantly higher taxonomic and functional evenness.

4. Logging also effected striking, long-term changes in both species and functional composition. In particular, the xylem density of recruits in logging gaps was 6% less than in unlogged forests, leaves were 11% less tough and had 6–13% greater mineral nutrient concentrations.

5.Synthesis and applications. Our results suggest that managers of tropical forests should limit overall surface area converted to logging gaps by creating fewer, larger gaps during selective logging, to reduce impacts on the taxonomic and functional composition of the regenerating stand.