Logging, exotic plant invasions, and native plant reassembly in a lowland tropical rain forest.
Habitat modification and biological invasions are key drivers of global environmental change. However, the extent and impact of exotic plant invasions in modified tropical landscapes remain poorly understood. We examined whether logging drives exotic plant invasions and whether their combined influences alter understory plant community composition in lowland rain forests in Borneo. We tested the relationship between understory communities and local- and landscape-scale logging intensity, using leaf area index (LAI) and aboveground biomass (AGB) data from 192 plots across a logging-intensity gradient from primary to repeatedly logged forests. Overall, we found relatively low levels of exotic plant invasions, despite an intensive logging history. Exotic species were more speciose, had greater cover, and more biomass in sites with more local-scale canopy loss. Surprisingly, though, exotic species invasion was not related to either landscape-scale canopy loss or road configuration. Moreover, logging and invasion did not seem to be acting synergistically on native plant composition, except that seedlings of the canopy-dominant Dipterocarpaceae family were less abundant in areas with higher exotic plant biomass. Current low levels of invasion, and limited association with native understory community change, suggest there is a window of opportunity to manage invasive impacts. We caution about potential lag effects and the possibly severe negative impacts of exotic plant invasions on the long-term quality of tropical forest, particularly where agricultural plantations function as permanent seed sources for recurrent dispersal along logging roads. We therefore urge prioritization of strategic management plans to counter the growing threat of exotic plant invasions in modified tropical landscapes.