Many plantations and regenerating forests along the deforestation frontiers in South America and south-east Asia are much further from primary forests, and wildlife may be unable to recolonise in these areas.
Furthermore, the percentage of species restricted to primary forest habitat was much higher (40-60%) for groups such as birds and trees, where we were able to sample the canopy species as well as those that live in the forest under-storey.
These results clearly demonstrate the unique value of undisturbed tropical forests for wildlife conservation. However, they also show that secondary forests and plantations offer some wildlife benefits and can host many species that would be unable to survive in intensive agricultural landscapes such as cattle ranching or soybean plantations.
Although the protection of large areas of primary forest is vital for native biodiversity conservation, reforestation projects can play an important supplementary role in efforts to boost population sizes of forest species and manage vast working landscapes that have already been heavily modified by human-use says Dr. Carlos Peres, who leads the UEA team.
But, when carbon-credits from Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDDS) are tabled for the first time at the Bali meeting next month, decision makers should beware of seeing fast-growing exotics such as eucalyptus as a carbon sink solution to the worlds emissions problems. If agreed upon by world leaders REDDs offer an extraordinary opportunity to generate funds to support the long-term protection of large areas of intact forest habitat.
Pristine forests are home to over half of all terrestrial species in the world and their loss would impoverish the planet. Far better to save primary forest from deforestation in the first place, says Carlos Peres. That way we maximize both the biodiversity and carbon value of whole landscapes.
|Contact: UEA Press Office|
University of East Anglia