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80% of rainforests could adversely impacted by logging, deforestation, climate change by 2100

The world’s tropical forests may suffer large-scale degradation and deforestation by the end of the century if current logging and climate change trends persist, finds a new analysis published in Conservation Letters.

Researchers led by Greg Asner at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University projected future vegetation change based on integrating high resolution deforestation and logging maps with 16 different global climate models. They found that by 2100 up to 81 percent of the Amazon could be susceptible to rapid vegetation change due to a combination of climate impacts and land use. Logging and climate change could affect up to 74 percent of Congo basin forests by the end of the century, while up to percent of Asia-Pacific’s tropical forests could be impacted. Land use, rather than climate, is predicted to be a bigger driver of biodiversity loss in Asia, according to the study.

The footprint of deforestation, selective logging, and climate change in the humid tropical forest biome. Image and caption courtesy of Asner et al. 2010

“This is the first global compilation of projected ecosystem impacts for humid tropical forests affected by these combined forces,” said Asner in a statement.

He added that the results could be used to help prioritize conservation strategies to minimize biodiversity loss.

“For those areas of the globe projected to suffer most from climate change, land managers could focus their efforts on reducing the pressure from deforestation, thereby helping species adjust to climate change, or enhancing their ability to move in time to keep pace with it. On the flip side, regions of the world where deforestation is projected to have fewer effects from climate change could be targeted for restoration.”

Earlier work by Asner and colleagues has found that selective logging affects roughly 20 times the area that is deforested each year in the tropics. Logging increases the susceptibility of forests to fire and future conversion.

CITATION: Gregory P. Asner, Scott R. Loarie, and Ursula Heyder. Combined effects of climate and land-use change on the future of humid tropical forests. Conservation Letters, August 5, 2010.

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