The carbon-rich tropical forests, known as the most undisturbed habitats, seem to be the ideal ‘fortress’ for sensitive and threatened animals, especially compared to low carbon regions such as timber plantations and oil palm plantations.
Until recently, data-based conclusions linking high levels of carbon and biodiversity became an elusive concept.
“Scientists have been trying to connect carbon with biodiversity for several years, but with varying success,” said Nicolas Deere, an ecologist at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, the University of Kent in England, in an interview.
Deere’s latest research and colleagues reveal, high carbon-tropical forests support more biodiversity than low carbon. These findings reinforce the case of using carbon assessments to identify forests important for conservation in a number of areas. The team published their research last November 6 in the Journal of Applied Ecology.
The research team selected small parts of the forest and plantations that form the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) area, the project area in southern Sabah, Kalimantan, Malaysia.
To demonstrate the relationship between carbon and biodiversity levels, they use high-resolution satellite data in determining high carbon areas. The team also used surveillance cameras to record species in different habitats.
Previous studies have often seen more rough data sets, where carbon values in larger areas may indicate different qualities of forests.
In places like Sabah, where humans have altered most of the landscape, the remnants of relatively pure forests may be adjacent to farming or oil palm plantations.
When averaged over a large area, Deere said, the carbon value of the fragment would be dragged down by the agricultural area of seki
Similarly, studies that look at nhayati diversity on a wider scale than data collected with surveillance cameras often miss the overall impact that forest quality can have on the diversity of species in an area.
He for example, the existence of animals that survive in oil palm plantations can give the impression that the area is still inhabited by various species. The real condition of this ‘tolerant species of disorder’ is actually blurring reality.
Deere and the team combine high and low carbon data with surveillance cameras from forests and oil palm plantations. While low-resolution data do not yield a corresponding result, smaller-scale data suggest a high carbon region supports more species of medium and large mammals that are threatened with extinction.
Help Indentify in Palm Garden
Grant Rosoman, Greenpeace’s global forestry advisory advisor – did not take part in the study – saying the findings support the use of the High Carbon Stock approach. This tool can help identify conservation areas based on certification schemes as they are now considered to be included in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) criteria.
“This is very important because it means identifying forests through the HCS approach or similar assessments to prevent deforestation while protecting biodiversity,” Rosoman said in an e-mail. “It will have a major impact to quickly and efficiently identify tropical forest areas that are the priority of biodiversity and carbon protection.”
He added that the real linkage between carbon and biodiversity could increase the value of carbon-rich forests for this “additional biodiversity benefit” under ecosystem preservation programs such as REDD +.
REDD + (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) aims to compensate developing countries to maintain forests that stand on their territory.
At the same time, Rosoman said the unanswered question is, “the impact of HCS forest cut forms, connectivity and landscape configuration of biodiversity.”
In other words, how does biodiversity respond to an increasingly fragmented habitat into smaller pieces due to human activities?
“I can not stress the warning of fragmentation enough with the current study,” Deere said. “We have provided the first validation of the HCS approach,” he said.
Now, Deere says, further research needs to look at how landscape fragmentation affects biodiversity and what is needed for “one ecologically functioning forest network in this plantation landscape.”