Reducing deforestation underpins global biodiversity conservation efforts. However, this focus on retaining forest cover overlooks the multitude of anthropogenic pressures that can degrade forest quality and imperil biodiversity. We use remotely sensed indices of tropical rainforest structural condition and associated human pressures to quantify the relative importance of forest cover, structural condition and integrity (the cumulative effect of condition and pressures) on vertebrate species extinction risk and population trends across the global humid tropics. We found that tropical rainforests of high integrity (structurally intact and under low pressures) were associated with lower likelihood of species being threatened and having declining populations, compared with forest cover alone (without consideration of condition and pressures). Further, species were more likely to be threatened or have declining populations if their geographic ranges contained high proportions of degraded forest than if their ranges contained lower proportions of forest cover but of high quality. Our work suggests that biodiversity conservation policies to preserve forest integrity are now urgently required alongside ongoing efforts to halt deforestation in the hyperdiverse humid tropics.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics