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Contrasting effects of defaunation on aboveground carbon storage across the global tropics

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Author(s)

  • Anand M. Osuri
  • Jayashree Ratnam
  • Varun Varma
  • Patricia Alvarez-Loayza
  • Johanna Hurtado Astaiza
  • Matt Bradford
  • Christine Fletcher
  • Mireille Ndoundou-Hockemba
  • Patrick A. Jansen
  • David Kenfack
  • Andrew R. Marshall
  • B. R. Ramesh
  • Francesco Rovero
  • Mahesh Sankaran

Department/unit(s)

Publication details

JournalNature Communications
DateAccepted/In press - 25 Mar 2016
DatePublished (current) - 25 Apr 2016
Volume7
Number of pages7
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Defaunation is causing declines of large-seeded animal-dispersed trees in tropical forests worldwide, but whether and how these declines will affect carbon storage across this biome is unclear. Here we show, using a pan-tropical data set, that simulated declines of large-seeded animal-dispersed trees have contrasting effects on aboveground carbon stocks across Earth's tropical forests. In our simulations, African, American and South Asian forests, which have high proportions of animal-dispersed species, consistently show carbon losses (2-12%), but Southeast Asian and Australian forests, where there are more abiotically dispersed species, show little to no carbon losses or marginal gains (±1%). These patterns result primarily from changes in wood volume, and are underlain by consistent relationships in our empirical data (B2,100 species), wherein, large-seeded animal-dispersed species are larger as adults than small-seeded animal-dispersed species, but are smaller than abiotically dispersed species. Thus, floristic differences and distinct dispersal mode-seed size-adult size combinations can drive contrasting regional responses to defaunation.

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© 2016, The authors.

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