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Keywords:

  • canopy development;
  • dispersal limitation;
  • functional traits;
  • mast fruiting;
  • regeneration;
  • tropical forest fire

ABSTRACT

Large parts of the everwet tropics have been burned, leaving many unburned–burned forest edges. Here we studied a Bornean forest edge to determine: (1) how unburned and burned forest differ in vegetation structure, diversity, composition and plant functional traits 7 yr after fire, and (2) if these variables showed significant edge effects. Environmental and inventory data from 120 plots (0.01 ha each), covering both sides of a ∼1.3 km forest boundary were sampled. Differences in vegetation structure, diversity, composition and plant functional traits were analyzed in relation to disturbance type (Mann–Whitney tests) and edge distance (partial correlation analysis that controlled for confounding effects of elevation, slope and fire intensity). Seven years after fire, burned forest differed significantly from unburned forest in most measured variables while few significant edge effects were detected, i.e., there existed a sharp delimitation between the two forest types. The regeneration of the burned forest depended almost entirely on in situ recruitment with little input of late successional species from the neighboring old growth forest. On the other hand, old growth forest showed few signs of edge degradation. A possible explanation for these results might be related to the absence of a mast fruiting event during these first 7 yr of forest recovery, resulting in low levels of late successional species seed input into the burned forest, combined with the quick development of a closed canopy in the burned forest by early successional species that shielded the unburned forest from adverse edge effects.