Increasing human dominance of tropical forests

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Science  21 Aug 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6250, pp. 827-832
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa9932

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Tropical forests house over half of Earth’s biodiversity and are an important influence on the climate system. These forests are experiencing escalating human influence, altering their health and the provision of important ecosystem functions and services. Impacts started with hunting and millennia-old megafaunal extinctions (phase I), continuing via low-intensity shifting cultivation (phase II), to today’s global integration, dominated by intensive permanent agriculture, industrial logging, and attendant fires and fragmentation (phase III). Such ongoing pressures, together with an intensification of global environmental change, may severely degrade forests in the future (phase IV, global simplification) unless new “development without destruction” pathways are established alongside climate change–resilient landscape designs.

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