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Tropical forests affected by habitat fragmentation store less biomass and carbon dioxide
Date:12/9/2009

easuring one hectare has only 140 tonnes of biomass per hectare. In other words, the biomass in the forest remnants in this study fell by as much as 40 per cent. "This finding is of great significance for the function of rain forests as a biomass store. It is important to be clear about the fact that we are losing more than just the deforested areas. Even the remaining forest is thinned out as a result. It is a mistake to think only in terms of total area. We have to start thinking in terms of the spatial configuration of the remaining forest fragments as well," says Dr Jrgen Groeneveld of the UFZ, explaining the significance of the study for climate policy. As well as the biomass yield per hectare, these fragmentation-related spatial (edge) effects also have impacts on climate balance and biodiversity, i.e. on several dimensions of sustainability.

The simulation integrated results from other researchers who are conducting unique long-term experiments on fragmentation in Amazonas. However, a large number of questions remain unanswered: Are the edges stable? Can the forest regenerate or does the degradation continue inwards? The researchers therefore view the figures as a preliminary, cautious estimate. "But if it is confirmed, it is a really fundamental finding," adds Dr Sandro Ptz of the UFZ. "Forest fragments cannot perform in the same way as continuous forests." The researchers therefore intend to investigate the long-term effects over the coming years to find out how the rain forest remnants develop in the long term. The results of this study will also have fundamental consequences for forest conservation, at least in terms of the carbon balance: "In any case, in terms of carbon storage, it is better to protect 100 continuous hectares than to protect 100 one-hectare patches," says Jrgen Groeneveld.

The data used in the model come from the tropical coastal rain forest in the state of So Paulo, Brazil. The Atlantic Forest was severely deforeste
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Contact: Tilo Arnhold
presse@ufz.de
49-341-235-1635
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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