PerspectiveTropical Forests

Tree diversity reduced to the bare essentials

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Science  10 Apr 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6487, pp. 128-129
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb7020

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Summary

Forests are a key component of the global climate system, particularly regarding the fluxes of carbon and water (1). Tropical forests are hotspots in this context, and thus their future fate could have strong implications for livelihoods and feedbacks to the climate. These forests are also key targets for biodiversity conservation (2). Their species richness applies to multiple organism groups, including trees, often featuring several hundred tree species per hectare compared to perhaps a dozen or just a few for temperate and boreal forests, respectively. This high tree species diversity hinders attempts to project future forest properties in the tropics. On page 165 of this issue, Rüger et al. (3) present an innovative approach for handling this vast biodiversity by simply considering two trait axes and five tree functional types. Reducing species diversity with these parameters may allow reliable projections of future tropic forest responses to climate change.

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