Carbon-Focused Conservation might fail to Save Several Species of Tropical Forests

Carbon-Focused Conservation might fail to Save Several Species of Tropical Forests

In order to save biodiversity in tropical forests, we will need to devise a compromising approach where carbon and species of these forests are protected together.

Human activity has brought drastic changes to the climate of our planet. A lot of species have been wiped away from the surface of the Earth and things are going from bad to worse with every passing day. Experts from different parts of the world are trying their best to curb these changes. Tropical forests are full of numerous amazing species so appropriate measures are vital for preserving those creations of the nature. Currently, the technique that is being used revolves around the conservation of carbon in these forests. However, a recent research by an international team of scientists revealed that this method is least likely to produce the desirable results.

Researchers from The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) and the Environment Center of the Lancaster University led this research. According to the study published in the journal, Nature Climate Change, investments designed to prevent massive carbon losses from the tropical forests of the world are least effective for maintaining biodiversity in the most ecologically fruitful forests. It was found that up to 77% of the conserved species were not protected through programs that focused solely on the preservation of carbon content. Dr. Gareth Lennox, a Senior Research Associate at the Lancaster University and a Co-author of the study, said,

Securing tropical forest carbon should remain a central conservation objective. 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.”

The team spent 18 months in exploring 234 tropical forests of the Brazilian Amazon and measured the relationship between carbon content and biodiversity. They analyzed species richness of different plants, birds, and dung beetles. They covered all types of forests ranging from the ones that are minimally disturbed to those which are recovering from complete destruction. The researchers observed that the assumption that more carbon means more life was true in case of severely damaged forests but things change dramatically in the parts where human involvement is less. Dr. Joice Ferreira, one of the Co-authors from EMBRAPA mentioned the significance of their work by saying,

The changing relationship between carbon and biodiversity across forests that have suffered different kinds of human disturbances explain our findings. As cleared and highly disturbed sites recover from the effects of agricultural use and severe wildfires, biodiversity also recovers. However, this linkage between carbon and biodiversity breaks down mid-recovery. The result: 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.

Despite these alarming facts, there is still a glimmer of hope and Dr. Toby Gardner, a Senior Research Fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute, talked about that in the study. He proposed that we will need to accept that there are conflicts between carbon and biodiversity so that we could reduce them through a much better planning. He tried to explain that by giving examples of their practical work and said,

“By considering carbon and biodiversity together, we found, for example, that the number of large tree species that can be protected can be increased by up to 15% relative to a carbon-only approach for just a 1% reduction in carbon coverage.”

Tropical forests are extremely important to the world as it offers habitat to more than two-thirds of the Earth’s land species and holds more than a third of the world’s land carbon, simultaneously. It is enough to prove that we need to devise an approach where a compromise between both of these entities is needed because we can’t afford to sacrifice any one of them for the other. Jos Barlow, a Professor at the Lancaster University and a Co-author of the study, elaborated that in the following words:

Biodiversity and climate change are inextricably linked in tropical forests. A warming climate and changing rainfall patterns will lead to the extinction of many tropical species, while it is within tropical biodiversity itself that forest carbon resides. Species-poor forests will eventually become carbon-poor. Therefore, tackling the climate crisis requires that both tropical forest carbon and tropical forest species are protected together.

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