Global loss of climate connectivity in tropical forests

Rebecca A Senior, Jane Katharine Hill, David P. Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review


Range shifts are a crucial mechanism enabling species to avoid extinction under climate change1,2. The majority of terrestrial biodiversity is concentrated in the tropics3, including species considered most vulnerable to climate warming4, but extensive and ongoing deforestation of tropical forests is likely to impede range shifts5,6. We conduct a global assessment of the potential for tropical species to reach analogous future climates – ‘climate connectivity’ – and empirically test how this has changed in response to deforestation between 2000 and 2012. We find that over 62% of tropical forest area (~ 10M km2) is already incapable of facilitating range shifts to analogous future climates. In just 12 years, continued deforestation has caused a loss of climate connectivity for over 27% of surviving tropical forest, with accelerating declines in connectivity as forest loss increased. On average, if species’ ranges shift as far down climate gradients as permitted by existing forest connectivity, by 2070 they would still experience 0.77°C of warming under the least severe climate warming scenario, up to 2.6°C warming for the most severe scenario. Limiting further forest loss and focusing the global restoration agenda towards creating climate corridors are global priorities for improving resilience of tropical forest biotas under climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)623-626
Number of pages4
JournalNature Climate Change
Early online date8 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019

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