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REDD+ would leave some species unprotected

REDD+ programs could leave some species high and dry even if its preserves the forests they call home, argues a new opinion piece in’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science. While the program would likely help habitat-dependent species, other important species could still vanish without additional measures to stem threats such as overexploitation and disease. While REDD+, or Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, has set preserving forests for their carbon value as its primary goal, the young program has been increasingly connected to efforts to conserve the world’s biodiversity. However, the new paper, argues that conservationists must not become complacent.

“[REDD] would involve billions of dollars being paid to tropical forest countries to improve forest management. However tropical forests are not only carbon rich, they are also exceptionally biologically diverse, containing up to half of all earth’s species. Implementing REDD+ therefore has the potential to mitigate both climate change and biodiversity loss simultaneously,” the authors of the paper write.

Many researchers have pointed to priority forests that contain a plethora of species as well as store significant amounts of carbon, but the authors warn this could still leave out many important species.

“Whilst habitat loss is the major driver of biodiversity loss in tropical forest areas, it is not the only one. Multiple threats such as disease, invasive species, hunting and persecution may continue within a forest even if deforestation is reduced. Because of this, some apparently intact tropical forests are being emptied of much of their wildlife,” the authors write.

Species that are threatened only by habitat loss stand to gain the most from REDD+, including many plants, insects, and arachnids. Of course, charismatic and popular animals—such as tigers and elephants—would still received directed funds to mitigate non-habitat loss related threats.

“On the other hand, taxa that are affected by forest loss, but are also heavily constrained by other threats such as hunting, are less likely to be conserved,” write the authors.

A few examples of those species likely to be left behind include forest antelopes, amphibians, wild pigs, and pangolins.

“Other groups […] also suffer multiple threats including in particular over-exploitation, but they may be less straightforward candidates for attracting premiums. These overlooked species and communities may therefore require additional conservation funding,” state the authors, noting that amphibians are another group of species which would need extra conservation attention.

CITATION: Collins, M.B., Milner-Gulland, E.J., Macdonald, E.A. and Macdonald, D.W. 2011. Pleiotropy and charisma determine winners and losers in the REDD+ game: all biodiversity is not equal. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 4(3):261-266

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