Tropical forests are global centres of both biodiversity and carbon storage. Many tropical countries aspire to protect forest to fulfil biodiversity and climate mitigation policy targets, but the conservation strategies needed to achieve these two functions depend critically on the tropical forest diversity-carbon relationship and this remains largely unexplored. Attempts to assess and understand this relationship in tropical forest ecosystems have been hindered by the scarcity of inventories where carbon storage in aboveground biomass and species identifications have been simultaneously and robustly quantified. Here, we compile a unique pan-tropical dataset of 360 plots located in old-growth closed-canopy forest, surveyed using standardised methods, allowing a multi-scale evaluation of the relationship between carbon storage and tree diversity. We find strongly contrasting variation in diversity and carbon among continents. Thus, on average, African forests have high carbon storage but relatively low diversity, Amazonian forests have high diversity but less carbon, and Southeast Asian forests have both high diversity and high carbon storage. Carbon-diversity relationships among all plots across the tropics are absent, and within continents are either weak (Asia) or absent (Amazonia, Africa). Within 1 ha plots a weak positive relationship is detectable, indicating that diversity effects in tropical forests may be scale dependent. The absence of clear diversity-carbon relationships at scales relevant to most conservation planning means that carbon-centred conservation strategies alone would miss many high diversity ecosystems. As tropical forests can have any combination of tree diversity and carbon stocks both will require explicit consideration when optimising policies to manage tropical carbon and biodiversity.
|Date made available||Jan 1 2016|
|Publisher||University of Leeds|