Disturbed habitats and biodiversity

A study estimates the global loss of biodiversity due to continued tropical forest disturbance. Previous studies suggest that habitat destruction in tropical forests might lead to mass extinction. However, the number of tropical species that may go extinct worldwide due to forest disturbance is unclear. John Alroy applied accurate species richness estimation methods to 875 ecological samples and estimated global species loss for trees and 10 groups of animals that would ensue from the disturbance of all remaining tropical forests. The author estimates that approximately 41% of the tree and animal species in the dataset are absent from disturbed habitats. Complete disturbance is predicted to lead to a 30% loss of tropical tree species and 8-65% loss of tropical animal species, depending on the group. Animals that do not disperse well, such as lizards and ants, are highly prone to biodiversity loss. The author estimates that plantations and secondary forests are more than 18% less biodiverse than primary forests. Biodiversity in forest fragments and forests disturbed by hunting, selective logging, or grazing does not differ from that in primary forests. The study indicates rapid and continuing biodiversity loss even under conditions of partial disturbance to tropical forests, according to the author. - Read at PNAS

Article #16-11855: “Effects of habitat disturbance on tropical forest biodiversity,” by John Alroy.