Riparian buffers can help mitigate biodiversity declines in oil palm agriculture
Agricultural expansion drives biodiversity decline in forested tropical regions. Consequently, it is important to understand the conservation value of remnant forest in production landscapes. In a tropical landscape dominated by oil palm we characterized faunal communities across eight taxa occurring within riparian forest buffers, which are legally protected alongside rivers, and compared them to nearby recovering logged forest. Buffer width was the main predictor of species richness and abundance, with widths of 40-100 m on each side of the river supporting broadly equivalent levels of biodiversity to logged forest. However, width responses varied markedly among taxa, and buffers often lacked forest-dependent species. Much wider buffers than are currently mandated are needed to safeguard most species. The largest biodiversity gains are achieved by increasing relatively narrow buffers. To provide optimal conservation outcomes in tropical production landscapes we encourage policymakers to prescribe width requirements for key taxa and different landscape contexts.