Expanding tropical forest spells disaster for conservation

Expanding tropical forest spells disaster for conservation
The plants of the Brazilian savanna recover vigorously after fire and flourish in the open vegetation maintained by fire. These species require abundant light, and are at risk of disappearing where forest encroaches due to fire suppression. Credit: Natashi Pilon.

A North Carolina State University study shows that fire suppression efforts in Brazilian savannas turn many of those areas into forest lands, with negative consequences for the plants and animals that live there.

Expanding forests suck up CO2 from the atmosphere, but the plants and animals from struggle to cope in the leafier environments. Encroaching forest resulted in major losses of plant and in those areas over the last 30 years - with the most susceptible plants and ants losing massive numbers of species.

William Hoffmann, professor of plant and microbial biology at NC State and co-corresponding author of a paper on biodiversity in the Brazilian Cerrado, said that the study shows the importance of fire to the savanna. Savannas - pure grasslands and grasslands dotted with trees - cover about 20 percent of the earth's land; the Brazilian Cerrado is considered the earth's most biodiverse savanna.

The plant and animal species of savannas are highly adapted to frequent fires and high light," Hoffmann said. "Shady conditions are an enemy to these savanna dwellers. Many of these plant species just can't persist in a forest. However, fire suppression has taken root in Brazil, so there is a reluctance to allow fires - even to promote the health of the savanna."

Expanding tropical forest spells disaster for conservation
Fire helps keep savannas healthy. Credit: William Hoffmann, NC State University.

The study, published in Science Advances, examined the past 30 years in the Brazilian Cerrado - a time period that highlights the influence of fire suppression and subsequent forest encroachment. Hoffmann and colleagues from Brazil found that this savanna captured and stored a lot more carbon in the past three decades, but also found that, in areas fully encroached by forest, plant species declined by 27 percent and ant species declined by 35 percent.

Perhaps more importantly, Hoffmann said, losses of plant and ant species unique to the savanna were even more widespread. Savanna plants declined by two-thirds in lands that converted from savanna to forest, while savanna ants declined by a whopping 86 percent.

"These savanna species can't be moved and can't really live anywhere else," Hoffmann said. "This study really highlights the extent to which these species are dependent on their savanna homes."

The findings could have more far-ranging implications, as Hoffmann added that he would expect to find similar results in other tropical areas where savannas become degraded by suppressing .

Drone footage showing how forest lands encroach tropical savannas. Plants and ants native to tropical savannas disappear when forests encroach. Credit: William Hoffmann, NC State University

Explore further

Effects of soil and drainage on the savanna vegetation in the northern Brazilian Amazonia

More information: "The biodiversity cost of carbon sequestration in tropical savanna," Science Advances (2017). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701284
Journal information: Science Advances

Citation: Expanding tropical forest spells disaster for conservation (2017, August 30) retrieved 15 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-08-tropical-forest-disaster.html
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Aug 30, 2017
This is pretty silly science.

The Brazilian Cerrado --at least as far as my understanding goes-- only exists in the first place as a result of the rapid, human-engineered destruction of former rainforest.

The fact that the rainforest is able to reestablish itself is remarkable, and should --one would think- be cause for hope, rather than --as these researchers view it-- alarm, due to species loss in a secondary biome.

The research itself would appear sound, but the conclusions drawn from it seem to be derived more from an economic perspective than from any holistic point of view.

I don't know whether to be surprised or not, but still feel this sort of thing has to be condemned as dishonest.


Aug 31, 2017
This isn't confined to Brazil. Moron greenies finally cluing in to the fact forests are NOT hospitable to animal and plant diversity. Another FAIL for the environmentalists.

Aug 31, 2017
This isn't confined to Brazil. Moron greenies finally cluing in to the fact forests are NOT hospitable to animal and plant diversity. Another FAIL for the environmentalists.


Tropical rainforests are HOTBEDS of biodiversity, morrrron.

Next time, READ the article and UNDERSTAND what it is saying before making another morrronic comment, morrron.

Sep 01, 2017
In 2007, I spent 6 weeks in the Malaysian portion of Borneo in both Sarawak and Sabah and the amount of old growth rain forest being destroyed is depressing and it is being done to grow palm oil trees for some irrational desire to produce bio-fuels that take more energy to produce than what it renders. Borneo is home to some or the earth's unique animals and their habituate is being destroyed to "save the planet." I was also in oil rich Brunei and their forest are basically protected and in existence. I understand the destruction is more sever in the Indonesian portion of Borneo.

Sep 01, 2017
If anyone thinks that destroying old growth rainforest to produce palm oil is desirable, they need to go to Borneo and Malaysia to get the answer and that is all being done so some fool can have a "feel good moment" when they fill up their ride with biodiesel. How smart is it to use a food crop, corn, to produce vehicle fuel by government mandate?
"Science News
... from universities, journals, and other research organizations
Study: Ethanol Production Consumes Six Units Of Energy To Produce Just One"
http://www.scienc...2436.htm

Sep 01, 2017
I'm aware that Caliban will not watch this great documentary. He shows a great aversion to ever learning anything and thinks that carrying on like a young Magpie in a nest, who is all mouth and ass, that calling people names is a show of maturity when it is something that demonstrates a low, below average IQ.
"Pricing the Planet
Can a 'green' economy save the planet? We investigate the buying and selling of nature."
20 Nov 2015 13:22 GMT Environment, Science & Technology, Business & Economy, Climate Change, Wild Animals
http://www.aljaze...963.html


Sep 02, 2017
Biscuit,

You are somewhat correct, but not entirely.

J'dumb wasn't able to refrain from stating that rainforest is being obliterated to be replaced with Oil palm plantations, without going on further to then lie about the purpose of those plantations:

To provide massive amounts of palm oil for the prepared foods industry. It is not being cultivated as a feedstock for biofuels.

So, once again we see that J'dumbmargie's purpose isn't to defame environmentalism based upon facts, but to distract from the operational externalized costs of global freemarket capitalism, which exploits both oil palms and fossil fuel-oil to drive profitability, without regard to environmental degradation.

Sep 02, 2017
It is not being cultivated as a feedstock for biofuels.


The steaming piece of dog dung, (AKA,Caliban), who has never been right about anything is also wrong about this subject of palm oil. The stupid, lying fool is maintaining that it is not being cultivated as a feedstock for biofuels. This ignorant brainwashed Jabba look alike has never seen a palm oil tree or where they are raised like I have. I know how destructive the cultivation of these trees is for old growth rainforest.
If this ignorant, lying dud would have taken the effort to look something up, which the fact free dud has never done, Jabba would have found this that follows:

Sep 02, 2017
"Leaked trade industry figures show a five-fold increase in the use of palm oil for biodiesel in Europe between 2010 and 2014, providing new evidence of links between deforestation in southeast Asia and the EU's renewable energy mandate.
The leaked figures, which the Guardian has seen, show that 45% of palm oil used in Europe in 2014 went to biodiesel, up from 8% in 2010."
Tim Searchinger, a Princeton University scholar, argued that the leaked numbers were likely too conservative, as palm oil is widely used to displace vegetable oil for use in biodiesel production.
"The new data confirms the warnings of those who were critical of the EU's biofuels mandate," he told the Guardian. "Any pretence that the main consequence of the EU biofuels policy had not been the peat drainage and deforestation of south-east Asia is now unmasked."
https://www.thegu...n-europe

Sep 02, 2017
Actually, @Caliban, it seems the savanna in central Brazil has existed for a long time. Industrial pressures, including both provision of charcoal for Brazil's steel industry and commercial monoculture farming particularly of soybeans, are eroding it at an accelerating rate. It is the most diverse savanna in the world.

It certainly did not emerge from rainforest, either as a product of human engineering or otherwise, as far as anyone knows.

Sep 02, 2017
Actually, @Caliban, it seems the savanna in central Brazil has existed for a long time. Industrial pressures, including both provision of charcoal for Brazil's steel industry and commercial monoculture farming particularly of soybeans, are eroding it at an accelerating rate. It is the most diverse savanna in the world.

It certainly did not emerge from rainforest, either as a product of human engineering or otherwise, as far as anyone knows.


You are correct, DA.

However, since the "debate" had broadened to the relative diversity of rainforest vs savannah, to, well --who knows exactly where J'dumb's rants might end up-- I failed to correct my mistake.

My apologies for that error to you and any other readers of this comment thread.

Sep 02, 2017
[ I failed to correct my mistake.

My apologies for that error to you and any other readers of this comment thread.


That, dip dung, is far from being your only mistake. I have never been to Brazil. Several years ago I did fly from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado and went down the Madre de Dios River to a lodge that was in Peru. I do know how destructive turning old growth rain forest into palm oil plantations is where ever the program is carried out. The rectal vent who comments on these issues is not smart enough to understand how destructive this is for the fauna and the flora where ever it takes place, not to mention the lives of the people who rely on the rain forest to exist. If (AKA,Caliban) were to forgo the idiotic name calling and just try to present some facts about whatever his view is on any given subject, I will do the same because his kind of trash talk and stupid approach is sure not my style, unless forced into it. I fear that dip dung is too dense to ever co

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