Looming tropical disaster needs urgent action

June 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: Reducing food waste could put birds and animals at risk

Related Stories

Cold spells chill tropical species

October 18, 2016

Two cold spells, two years apart, in two subtropical regions of the world have given scientists clues to what happens when an extreme climate event strikes.

26 jaguars killed in Panama so far this year

October 4, 2016

Ricardo Moreno, research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama and director of the Yaguará Panamá Foundation, reported at the 20th Congress of the Mesoamerican Society for Biology and ...

Temporary extinction reprieve for some frogs

October 12, 2016

Australian scientists have good news for frog conservation ─ there may be longer than expected time to intervene before climate change causes extinction of some species.

Past climate linked to mammal communities in Africa today

October 5, 2016

Scientists are increasingly concerned about the impact of climate change on the world's biodiversity, and much effort has been placed into forecasting the response of species to these changes over the next century. Research ...

Recommended for you


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.