As the world seeks to curb human-induced climate change, will protecting the carbon of tropical forests also ensure the survival of their species? A study published today in the leading journal Nature Climate Change suggests the answer to this question is far from straightforward. Forests with the greatest carbon content do not necessarily house the most species, meaning carbon-focused conservation can miss large swathes of tropical forest biodiversity.
Investments designed to prevent massive carbon losses from the world’s tropical forests are likely to be least effective for biodiversity in the most ecologically valuable forests, according to research by an international team, led by scientists from Lancaster University’s Environment Centre (UK) and The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA).
Alarmingly, in these forests, up to 77% of species that would have been protected through biodiversity conservation were not protected through measures focused solely on protecting carbon stocks.
“Securing tropical forest carbon should remain a central conservation objective”, said Dr. Gareth Lennox, co-lead author of the study and a Senior Research Associate at Lancaster University. “Not only will this slow climate change but it also has the potential to safeguard the unique and irreplaceable wildlife that inhabits these ecosystems. However, to ensure that those species survive, biodiversity needs to be treated as a priority – alongside carbon – of conservation efforts.”