Oil palm plantations fail to support mammal diversity

Sam Yue, Jedediah F. Brodie, Elise F. Zipkin, Henry Bernard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Agricultural expansion is the largest threat to global biodiversity. In particular, the rapid spread of tree plantations is a primary driver of deforestation in hyperdiverse tropical regions. Plantations tend to support considerably lower biodiversity than native forest, but it remains unclear whether plantation traits affect their ability to sustain native wildlife populations, particularly for threatened taxa. If animal diversity varies across plantations with different characteristics, these traits could be manipulated to make plantations more "wildlife friendly." The degree to which plantations create edge effects that degrade habitat quality in adjacent forest also remains unclear, limiting our ability to predict wildlife persistence in mixed-use landscapes. We used systematic camera trapping to investigate mammal occurrence and diversity in oil palm plantations and adjacent forest in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Mammals within plantations were largely constrained to locations near native forest; the occurrence of most species and overall species richness declined abruptly with decreasing forest proximity from an estimated 14 species at the forest ecotone to;1 species 2 km into the plantation. Neither tree height nor canopy cover within plantations strongly affected mammal diversity or occurrence, suggesting that manipulating tree spacing or planting cycles might not make plantations more wildlife friendly. Plantations did not appear to generate strong edge effects; mammal richness within forest remained high and consistent up to the plantation ecotone. Our results suggest that land-sparing strategies, as opposed to efforts to make plantations more wildlife-friendly, are required for regional wildlife conservation in biodiverse tropical ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2285-2292
Number of pages8
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Agricultural expansion
  • Camera trap
  • Habitat connectivity
  • Land sparing
  • Oil palm plantations
  • Species richness
  • Tropical rainforest
  • Wildlife-friendly farming


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