Vinh Lang, MFS

2015 Other Fellow in Sri Lanka

Detection and characterization of Sri Lankan mixed dipterocarp forest structure across physiographic gradients and its effects from logging


Understanding the nature of forest canopy structure and its ability to recover in relation to past disturbance regimes (logging, swidden agriculture, or tea cultivation) is a critical attribute to understand for future implementation of conservation strategies. Better understanding of the effects of anthropogenic disturbance on forest dynamics could greatly benefit efforts for future land management in planning, conservation, and restoration. Sinharaja Man and Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to hundreds of endemic species and yet much of the region is uncharted. The research site chosen for the study is unique in the sense that it contains both disturbed and undisturbed forest within relatively close proximity as well as great variation with respect to topographic gradients.

The objectives of this study are: 1) to characterize the structural qualities of the lowland mixed Dipterocarp forest of southwest Sri Lanka with the intent of capturing variation across physiographic gradients and/or resulting from anthropogenic disturbance and 2) to compare on the ground measurements of rainforest canopy structure with those observed remotely using geographic information systems (GIS). Results of this study will describe the current structure and function of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, reveal past disturbance mechanisms and the effects of differing management techniques on forest stand structures, and establish a methodology for remote analysis of the effects of disturbance on canopy structure.