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      Anthropogenic disturbance in tropical forests can double biodiversity loss from deforestation.

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          Abstract

          Concerted political attention has focused on reducing deforestation, and this remains the cornerstone of most biodiversity conservation strategies. However, maintaining forest cover may not reduce anthropogenic forest disturbances, which are rarely considered in conservation programmes. These disturbances occur both within forests, including selective logging and wildfires, and at the landscape level, through edge, area and isolation effects. Until now, the combined effect of anthropogenic disturbance on the conservation value of remnant primary forests has remained unknown, making it impossible to assess the relative importance of forest disturbance and forest loss. Here we address these knowledge gaps using a large data set of plants, birds and dung beetles (1,538, 460 and 156 species, respectively) sampled in 36 catchments in the Brazilian state of Pará. Catchments retaining more than 69–80% forest cover lost more conservation value from disturbance than from forest loss. For example, a 20% loss of primary forest, the maximum level of deforestation allowed on Amazonian properties under Brazil’s Forest Code, resulted in a 39–54% loss of conservation value: 96–171% more than expected without considering disturbance effects. We extrapolated the disturbance-mediated loss of conservation value throughout Pará, which covers 25% of the Brazilian Amazon. Although disturbed forests retained considerable conservation value compared with deforested areas, the toll of disturbance outside Pará’s strictly protected areas is equivalent to the loss of 92,000–139,000 km2 of primary forest. Even this lowest estimate is greater than the area deforested across the entire Brazilian Amazon between 2006 and 2015 (ref. 10). Species distribution models showed that both landscape and within-forest disturbances contributed to biodiversity loss, with the greatest negative effects on species of high conservation and functional value. These results demonstrate an urgent need for policy interventions that go beyond the maintenance of forest cover to safeguard the hyper-diversity of tropical forest ecosystems.

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          Most cited references23

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          Towards a worldwide wood economics spectrum.

          Wood performs several essential functions in plants, including mechanically supporting aboveground tissue, storing water and other resources, and transporting sap. Woody tissues are likely to face physiological, structural and defensive trade-offs. How a plant optimizes among these competing functions can have major ecological implications, which have been under-appreciated by ecologists compared to the focus they have given to leaf function. To draw together our current understanding of wood function, we identify and collate data on the major wood functional traits, including the largest wood density database to date (8412 taxa), mechanical strength measures and anatomical features, as well as clade-specific features such as secondary chemistry. We then show how wood traits are related to one another, highlighting functional trade-offs, and to ecological and demographic plant features (growth form, growth rate, latitude, ecological setting). We suggest that, similar to the manifold that tree species leaf traits cluster around the 'leaf economics spectrum', a similar 'wood economics spectrum' may be defined. We then discuss the biogeography, evolution and biogeochemistry of the spectrum, and conclude by pointing out the major gaps in our current knowledge of wood functional traits.
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            Primary forests are irreplaceable for sustaining tropical biodiversity.

            Human-driven land-use changes increasingly threaten biodiversity, particularly in tropical forests where both species diversity and human pressures on natural environments are high. The rapid conversion of tropical forests for agriculture, timber production and other uses has generated vast, human-dominated landscapes with potentially dire consequences for tropical biodiversity. Today, few truly undisturbed tropical forests exist, whereas those degraded by repeated logging and fires, as well as secondary and plantation forests, are rapidly expanding. Here we provide a global assessment of the impact of disturbance and land conversion on biodiversity in tropical forests using a meta-analysis of 138 studies. We analysed 2,220 pairwise comparisons of biodiversity values in primary forests (with little or no human disturbance) and disturbed forests. We found that biodiversity values were substantially lower in degraded forests, but that this varied considerably by geographic region, taxonomic group, ecological metric and disturbance type. Even after partly accounting for confounding colonization and succession effects due to the composition of surrounding habitats, isolation and time since disturbance, we find that most forms of forest degradation have an overwhelmingly detrimental effect on tropical biodiversity. Our results clearly indicate that when it comes to maintaining tropical biodiversity, there is no substitute for primary forests.
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              Confounding factors in the detection of species responses to habitat fragmentation.

              Habitat loss has pervasive and disruptive impacts on biodiversity in habitat remnants. The magnitude of the ecological impacts of habitat loss can be exacerbated by the spatial arrangement -- or fragmentation -- of remaining habitat. Fragmentation per se is a landscape-level phenomenon in which species that survive in habitat remnants are confronted with a modified environment of reduced area, increased isolation and novel ecological boundaries. The implications of this for individual organisms are many and varied, because species with differing life history strategies are differentially affected by habitat fragmentation. Here, we review the extensive literature on species responses to habitat fragmentation, and detail the numerous ways in which confounding factors have either masked the detection, or prevented the manifestation, of predicted fragmentation effects. Large numbers of empirical studies continue to document changes in species richness with decreasing habitat area, with positive, negative and no relationships regularly reported. The debate surrounding such widely contrasting results is beginning to be resolved by findings that the expected positive species-area relationship can be masked by matrix-derived spatial subsidies of resources to fragment-dwelling species and by the invasion of matrix-dwelling species into habitat edges. Significant advances have been made recently in our understanding of how species interactions are altered at habitat edges as a result of these changes. Interestingly, changes in biotic and abiotic parameters at edges also make ecological processes more variable than in habitat interiors. Individuals are more likely to encounter habitat edges in fragments with convoluted shapes, leading to increased turnover and variability in population size than in fragments that are compact in shape. Habitat isolation in both space and time disrupts species distribution patterns, with consequent effects on metapopulation dynamics and the genetic structure of fragment-dwelling populations. Again, the matrix habitat is a strong determinant of fragmentation effects within remnants because of its role in regulating dispersal and dispersal-related mortality, the provision of spatial subsidies and the potential mediation of edge-related microclimatic gradients. We show that confounding factors can mask many fragmentation effects. For instance, there are multiple ways in which species traits like trophic level, dispersal ability and degree of habitat specialisation influence species-level responses. The temporal scale of investigation may have a strong influence on the results of a study, with short-term crowding effects eventually giving way to long-term extinction debts. Moreover, many fragmentation effects like changes in genetic, morphological or behavioural traits of species require time to appear. By contrast, synergistic interactions of fragmentation with climate change, human-altered disturbance regimes, species interactions and other drivers of population decline may magnify the impacts of fragmentation. To conclude, we emphasise that anthropogenic fragmentation is a recent phenomenon in evolutionary time and suggest that the final, long-term impacts of habitat fragmentation may not yet have shown themselves.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Nature
                1476-4687
                0028-0836
                July 07 2016
                : 535
                : 7610
                Article
                nature18326
                10.1038/nature18326
                27362236
                8ad427af-7459-417f-a692-f9e91bb582c5
                History

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