Biological
diversity has been defined by Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) as “the
variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial,
marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they
are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of
ecosystems.” It is estimated that over a half of the known terrestrial flora
and fauna species live in forests (Millenium Ecosystem Assesment, 2005). However, the area
covered by natural forests globally is declining due to severe deforestation
and forest degradation, mostly attributed to conversion to agriculture (Brockerhoff et al., 2008). Interestingly though, plantation forest (defined by FAO
(2006) as “forests established through planting or seeding of one or more
indigenous or introduced tree species in the process of afforestation or
reforestation”) cover is increasing annually by approximately 3.6 million
hectares (FAO, 2015). Most plantation forests are established primarily for
wood and pulp production and a majority often consist of exotic species (Lindenmayer, 2003). In terms of biodiversity
conservation, is not disputed that natural/native forests are superior to plantation
forests due to their habitat diversity and complexity (Armstrong and van
Hensbergen, 1996). However, to effectively analyze the impact of plantation forests
on biodiversity conservation, Brockerhoff et
al., 2008 suggest that consideration of plantation tree species in
question; plantation management objectives and land use before plantation
establishment should be done.

Scientists largely agree that tree plantations can
contribute to biodiversity conservation when appropriately managed in line with
conservation objectives. For example, in areas where forest degradation and/or
fragmentation has occurred, plantation forests play a role in accelerating
forest succession by influencing understory microclimates and soil physical
properties that have a direct bearing on natural regeneration (Brockerhoff et al., 2008). Besides, tree plantations
when located in the vicinity of native fragments (matrix), contribute to
biodiversity conservation by: (1) providing an alternative shelter and source
of livelihood to species whose habitats have been lost (Wunderle, 1997); (2)
providing connectivity between forest remnants hence facilitating dispersal (Hampson
and Peterken 1998); and (3) acting as buffers against extreme conditions
thereby facilitating survival of remnant species (Denyer et al.,
2006). Plantation forests also contribute to biodiversity conservation by
providing an alternative source of resources such as timber, thereby saving
natural forests from being over-exploited, subsequently conserving biodiversity
in the natural forests (Shepherd, 1993). 

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