A new study suggests that by 2100 only 18% to 45% of the plants and animals that make up tropical forests will still be there.
The study, led by Greg Asner at the Carnegie Institutions Department of Global Ecology, combined new deforestation and selective logging data with climate change projections to consider their combined effects for all humid tropical forest ecosystems in an effort to help conservationists pinpoint where their efforts will be most effective.
“This is the first global compilation of projected ecosystem impacts for humid tropical forests affected by these combined forces,” remarked Asner. “For those areas of the globe projected to suffer most from climate change, land managers could focus their efforts on reducing the pressure from deforestation, thereby helping species adjust to climate change, or enhancing their ability to move in time to keep pace with it. On the flip side, regions of the world where deforestation is projected to have fewer effects from climate change could be targeted for restoration.”
As a whole, tropical forests contain more than half of all the plant and animal species on the planet. Not surprisingly, however, is the fact that the combined effects of climate change, forest clear cutting, and logging are having massive impacts on the ecosystems within these precious forests.
“This study is the strongest evidence yet that the world’s natural ecosystems will undergo profound changes—including severe alterations in their species composition—through the combined influence of climate change and land use,” remarked Daniel Nepstad, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center. “Conservation of the world’s biota, as we know it, will depend upon rapid, steep declines in greenhouse gas emissions.”
Central and South American humid tropical forests could see a two-thirds change to their biodiversity, including the Amazon Basin which alone could see changes over 80% of the region. The Congo is likely to suffer from selective logging and climate change, which could negatively affect between 35% and 74% of the region. While 70% of Africa’s tropical forest biodiversity would likely be affected if current practises are not curtailed. Asia and the southern Pacific Islands are subject to similar changes, with deforestation and logging the primary drivers of ecosystem change, with 60% to 77% of the region susceptible to biodiversity loss solely at the hands of man.