Dr Gibson, Lucas Garrett
My PhD research focuses on deforestation and forest fragmentation and their impacts on tropical biodiversity. Tropical forests hold up to 50% of the species found on earth, and are being rapidly replaced by fields of rice or soybeans and plantations of rubber or palm oil. In one study, I synthesized over 100 studies around the world to examine the impact of various forms of human disturbance on biodiversity. A key finding was that selectively logged forests sustained relatively high levels of biodiversity, whereas secondary forests were depleted of biodiversity (Gibson et al. Nature 2011). As deforestation spreads across the tropics, forests increasingly persist as small patches surrounded by inhospitable human-dominated landscapes. These fragments will be depleted of biodiversity over a certain relaxation period until equilibrium is reached. A key question I have examined is how rapidly species disappear from forest fragments. I resurveyed forest islands in Chiew Larn Reservoir in southern Thailand to measure the rate of species loss, and observed the near-complete extinction of native small mammals from fragments 56 hectares or smaller within 25 years. The presence of an invasive rat species probably accelerated species loss, and the presence of similar invasive species in human-modified landscapes suggests that forest fragments may be even more vulnerable to biodiversity loss than previously thought (Gibson et al. Science 2013). Combined, my findings suggest that - if we want to preserve the world's greatest bastion of biodiversity - we must reduce deforestation and fragmentation in intact forest expanses and rapidly restore forest connectivity in highly fragmented regions.
|Awardees||Award Date||Honours / Awards / Prizes||Category|
|2015-07-01||Wang Gungwu Medal & Prize: National University of Singapore||Research Achievement|
|2015-07-01||World Future Foundation Prize in Environmental and Sustainability Research: World Future Foundation||Research Achievement|
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