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The effects of land‐use change on semi‐aquatic bugs (Gerromorpha, Hemiptera) in rainforest streams in Sabah, Malaysia

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jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:p jats:list

jats:list-itemjats:pLand‐use change and agricultural expansion have caused marked biodiversity loss in Southeast Asia, but impacts on freshwater communities have been very little studied. Semi‐aquatic bugs are abundant in streams, provide prey for many other animals, and are sensitive to environmental change, making them a relevant group for studying land‐use change.</jats:p></jats:list-item>

jats:list-itemjats:pWe investigated the effects of logging and conversion of forest to oil palm plantations on semi‐aquatic bugs in Sabah, Malaysia, and the potential value of retaining riparian buffer strips in plantations, by sampling across 12 rivers along an existing land‐use gradient. We recorded catchment, riparian, and stream‐scale environmental variables and surveyed semi‐aquatic bugs within streams in old‐growth forest, logged forest, and oil palm plantation with (OPB) and without buffer strips (OP). We recorded the abundance, richness, total biomass, and proportion of juveniles and winged adult individuals of all species, together with the sex ratio of a common morphospecies (jats:italicPtilomera</jats:italic> sp.), as possible indicators of disturbance effects.</jats:p></jats:list-item>

jats:list-itemjats:pAverage abundance and average richness, but not total biomass, of all semi‐aquatic bugs were lower in areas with higher habitat disturbance. In particular, average abundance in old‐growth forest was more than two, four, and six times higher than that in logged forest, OPB, and OP, respectively. Average richness in old‐growth forest was higher than in logged forest by two species, but more than two and three times higher than in OPB and OP, respectively.</jats:p></jats:list-item>

jats:list-itemjats:pThe presence of riparian buffer strips in oil palm had little effect on the abundance and richness of semi‐aquatic bugs. We found no significant differences in the proportion of juveniles, winged adult individuals, or the sex ratio of jats:italicPtilomera</jats:italic> sp. along the disturbance gradient.</jats:p></jats:list-item>

jats:list-itemjats:pIn conclusion, oil palm plantations were associated with lower average abundance and richness of semi‐aquatic bugs than forest sites, but community composition did not differ markedly between logged and old‐growth forests. We also found that the forested buffer strips maintained within our oil palm plantation study sites did not protect forest species of semi‐aquatic bugs. Maintaining forest may therefore provide the best option for the conservation of semi‐aquatic bugs, but further studies of the effects of land‐use change and management options are needed across Southeast Asia.</jats:p></jats:list-item> </jats:list> </jats:p>


Publication status: Published

Funder: Hanne and Torkel Weis‐Fogh Fund

Funder: S.T. Lee Fund

Funder: Panton Trust

Funder: Cambridge University Commonwealth Fund

Funder: Varley Gradwell Travelling Fellowship

Funder: Tim Whitmore Fund

Funder: Natural Environment Research Council; doi:

Funder: Proforest

Funder: Jardine Foundation

Funder: Cambridge Trust; doi:


community, veliid bugs, oil palm, water striders, logging

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Freshwater Biology

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