Plans to be discussed at the forthcoming UN climate conference in Copenhagen to cut deforestation in developing countries could save some species from extinction but inadvertently increase the risk to others, scientists believe.
A team of eleven of the world's top tropical forest scientists, coordinated by the University of Leeds, warn that while cutting clearance of carbon-rich tropical forests will help reduce climate change and save species in those forests, governments could risk neglecting other forests that are home to large numbers of endangered species.
Under new UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) proposals, the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) scheme would curb carbon emissions by financially rewarding tropical countries that reduce deforestation.
Governments implicitly assume that this is a win-win scheme, benefiting climate and species. Tropical forests contain half of all species and half of all carbon stored in terrestrial vegetation, and their destruction accounts for 18% of global carbon emissions.
However, in a paper published in the latest issue of Current Biology, the scientists warn that if REDD focuses solely on protecting forests with the greatest density of carbon, some biodiversity may be sacrificed.
"Concentrations of carbon density and biodiversity in tropical forests only partially overlap," said Dr Alan Grainger of the University of Leeds, joint leader of the international team. "We are concerned that governments will focus on cutting deforestation in the most carbon-rich forests, only for clearance pressures to shift to other high biodiversity forests which are not given priority for protection because they are low in carbon."
"If personnel and funds are switched from existing conservation areas they too could be at risk, and this would make matters even worse."
If REDD is linked to carbon markets then biodiversity hotspo
|Contact: Clare Ryan|
University of Leeds