Orangutan habitat is under increasing threat due to forest fragmentation. Photo: Nonie from Australia, Wikimedia Commons
Orangutan habitat is under increasing threat due to forest fragmentation.   Photo: Nonie from Australia, Wikimedia Commons
Orangutan habitat is under increasing threat due to forest fragmentation.
Photo: Nonie from Australia, Wikimedia Commons

 

New maps highlight habitat corridors in the tropics

WOODS HOLE RESEARCH CENTER | 27 January 2014

Biodiversity co-benefits and climate change mitigation strategies

Falmouth, Mass. – A team of Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) scientists created maps of habitat corridors connecting protected areas in the tropics to incorporate biodiversity co-benefits into climate change mitigation strategies. Drs. Patrick Jantz, Scott Goetz, and Nadine Laporte describe their findings in an article entitled, “Carbon stock corridors to mitigate climate change and promote biodiversity in the tropics,” available online in the journal Nature Climate Change on January 26.

Corridors passing through the densest VCS between protected areas. a–d, central Africa (a), Western Africa (b), southeast Asia (c) and the Guiana Shield (d). Corridors are shown in white, protected areas in semi-transparent grey and VCS as a gradient from low density in red to high density in green. - See more at: http://www.whrc.org/mapping/pantropical/habitatcorridors/index.html#sthash.tbPCE7kN.dpuf
Corridors passing through the densest VCS between protected areas. a–d, central Africa (a), Western Africa (b), southeast Asia (c) and the Guiana Shield (d). Corridors are shown in white, protected areas in semi-transparent grey and VCS as a gradient from low density in red to high density in green.

Climate change and deforestation are changing tropical ecosystems, isolating organisms in protected areas that will change along with climate, threatening their survival. Nearly every animal and plant species requires travelling some distance for nutrition, reproduction and genetic diversity, but few conservation or climate mitigation strategies take the connections between conserved lands into account. These habitat corridors are essential for longer-term biodiversity conservation, while also providing opportunities for climate change mitigation in the form of carbon sequestration and avoiding emissions from deforestation.

According to lead author Dr. Jantz, “Maintaining connectivity of forest ecosystems provides ecological and societal benefits ensuring long-term species survival and providing room for ecosystems to reorganize in response to climate change and protecting ecosystem services that people depend on.” Co-author Dr. Goetz sees corridors as “avenues for migration of flora and fauna” needed for their survival “under the climate change we’re already committed to.”

Multicriteria scoring of corridors in the Brazilian Amazon across three dimensions: VCS density, mammalian biodiversity and deforestation threat. Scores were divided by EOC in units of US$10,000 ha−1 to yield multicriteria benefit per US$10,000. a,b, Biodiversity was measured as either endemism richness (a) or species richness (b). c, Deforestation threat was represented as the fraction of corridor area projected to be deforested by the year 2030 under a BAU scenario. d–g, Inset maps show areas along the Madeira River (d), in northern Mato Grosso (e), on the border of Rondônia (f) and in Pará at the mouth of the Amazon River (g). Forest cover for the year 2002 and projected remaining forest cover in 2030 (ref. 14) is depicted in inset maps d–g and symbolized by the legend in the lower right corner of c. Extents for insets d and e are shown left to right in a and extents for insets f and g are shown left to right in b. Corridors for all maps are symbolized using 20 quantile breaks.
Multicriteria scoring of corridors in the Brazilian Amazon across three dimensions: VCS density, mammalian biodiversity and deforestation threat. Scores were divided by EOC in units of US$10,000 ha−1 to yield multicriteria benefit per US$10,000. a,b, Biodiversity was measured as either endemism richness (a) or species richness (b). c, Deforestation threat was represented as the fraction of corridor area projected to be deforested by the year 2030 under a BAU scenario. d–g, Inset maps show areas along the Madeira River (d), in northern Mato Grosso (e), on the border of Rondônia (f) and in Pará at the mouth of the Amazon River (g). Forest cover for the year 2002 and projected remaining forest cover in 2030 (ref. 14) is depicted in inset maps d–g and symbolized by the legend in the lower right corner of c. Extents for insets d and e are shown left to right in a and extents for insets f and g are shown left to right in b. Corridors for all maps are symbolized using 20 quantile breaks.

The team used a high-resolution data set of vegetation carbon stock (VCS) to map 16,257 corridors through areas of the highest biomass between 5,600 protected areas in the tropics. For Dr. Jantz, “the VCS corridor approach informs global frameworks for land management based climate change mitigation by showing which forests contain significant carbon stocks and are important for tropical biodiversity.”

Part of the study focused on the Legal Amazon, where the team used economic and biological information combining species richness and endemism with economic opportunity costs and deforestation threats to prioritize optimal corridors. For Dr. Goetz, “Conserving tropical forests ultimately requires prioritizing the services they provide to people in a local setting. Identifying lands locally valuable for agriculture or other high-value uses, considering biodiversity and the threat of deforestation, our analysis provides both maps and a framework for realistic conservation planning.”

Dr. Laporte adds, “Because it is unlikely all remaining tropical forests can be protected, the corridors defined by this study provide a way to prioritize lands in the context of the multiple benefits of tropical forest conservation.”

According to Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy, a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation, “This represents a significant step towards the kind of integrated planning and management essential for sustainable development.”