Looming tropical disaster needs urgent action

Jun 25, 2008

A major review by University of Adelaide researchers shows that the world is losing the battle over tropical habitat loss with potentially disastrous implications for biodiversity and human well-being.

Published online today in the Ecological Society of America's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the review concludes we are "on a trajectory towards disaster" and calls for an immediate global, multi-pronged conservation approach to avert the worst outcomes.

Lead author Associate Professor Corey Bradshaw, from the University of Adelaide's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, says tropical forests support more than 60% of all known species. But up to 15 million hectares of tropical rainforest are being lost every year and species are being lost at a rate of up to 10,000 times higher than would happen randomly without humans present.

"This is not just a tragedy for tropical biodiversity, this is a crisis that will directly affect human livelihoods," says Associate Professor Bradshaw. "This is not just about losing tiny species found at the base of big trees in a rain forest few people will ever see, this is about a complete change in ecosystem services that directly benefit human life.

"The majority of the world's population live in the tropics and what is at stake is the survival of species that pollinate most of the world's food crops, purify our water systems, attenuate severe flood risk, sequester carbon (taking carbon dioxide out of the air) and modify climate."

Associate Professor Bradshaw says recent technical debate about likely extinction rates in the tropics could be used by governments to justify destructive policies.

"We must not accept belief that all is well in the tropics, or that the situation will improve with economic development, nor use this as an excuse for inaction on the vexing conservation challenges of this century," he says.

"We need to start valuing forests for all the services they provide, and richer nations should be investing in the maintenance of tropical habitats."

One of the biggest issues is corruption. "The greatest long-term improvements can be made in governance of tropical diversity resources and good governance will only come from strong multi-lateral policy. We need international pressure to ensure appropriate monitoring and accounting systems are in place," says Associate Professor Bradshaw.

Source: University of Adelaide

Explore further: China to unveil UN climate pledges imminently: Li

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New study re-writes the rules of carbon analysis

53 minutes ago

A new study published today in Nature Climate Change has found analyses of carbon emissions may be misleading as they failed to include the impacts of policies such as trading schemes, emission caps or quo ...

Scientists recruit public to help study "The Blob"

2 hours ago

A huge mass of unusually warm water that scientists have dubbed "The Blob" has lurked off the West Coast for much of the past two years and speculation is growing that it may be connected in some way with the drought plaguing ...

Yosemite forest fire example of possible things to come

4 hours ago

Forest composition, ground cover and topography are the best predictors of forest fire severity in the Western U.S., according to Penn State physical geographers who also see that the long history of fire ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.