Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics
University of Amsterdam
Tropical forests in the Anthropocene
by Prof. Yadvinder Malhi (University of Oxford)
ABSTRACT: The Anthropocene is characterized as an epoch when human influence has begun to fundamentally alter many aspects of the Earth system, and many of the planet’s biomes. Here I review and synthesize our understanding of Anthropocene change in tropical forests, in the context of the long-term environmental history of the tropics. Key facets of Anthropocene change in tropical include deforestation, timber and wood extraction, the loss of fauna that maintain critical ecological connections, the spread of fire, landscape fragmentation and the spread of second-growth forests, invasion and pathogen spread, and increasing CO2 and climate change. The patterns of change are spatially heterogeneous, often have strong interactions among them, can have both large-scale and remote effects and play out through ecological cascades over long time scales. As a consequence, most tropical forests are on a trajectory to becoming altered ecosystems, and many are becoming novel ecosystems. I explore strategies for shaping the transition of tropical forests through the early Anthropocene, as well as highlight opportunities and challenges for the tropical forest science and conservation community.
REFERENCE PAPER: Malhi Y. , Gardner T.A., Goldsmith G.R., Silman M.R., Zelazowski P. Tropical forests in the Anthropocene, Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Vol. 39: 125-159. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-environ-030713-155141