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Primary forests are irreplaceable for sustaining tropical biodiversity


Gibson, L and Lee, TM and Koh, LP and Brook, BW and Gardner, TA and Barlow, J and Peres, CA and Bradshaw, CJA and Laurance, WF and Lovejoy, TE and Sodhi, NS, Primary forests are irreplaceable for sustaining tropical biodiversity, Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science, 478 pp. 378-381. ISSN 0028-0836 (2011) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature

DOI: doi:10.1038/nature10425


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.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:biodiversity, tropical, forests, sustainability
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Environmental management
Research Field:Conservation and biodiversity
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Terrestrial biodiversity
UTAS Author:Brook, BW (Professor Barry Brook)
ID Code:116014
Year Published:2011
Web of Science® Times Cited:1268
Deposited By:Biological Sciences
Deposited On:2017-04-27
Last Modified:2017-10-31

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