Monday, January 26, 2009

Rethinking tropical destruction

A debate has emerged about the true extent of biodiversity loss on the planet within the Smithsonian. This is because secondary growth forests turn out to be far better homes for biodiversity than had been thought.

Second life

Jan 15th 2009
Biologists debate the scale of extinction in the world’s tropical forests

A RARE piece of good news from the world of conservation: the global extinction crisis may have been overstated. The world is unlikely to lose 100 species a day, or half of all species in the lifetime of people now alive, as some have claimed. The bad news, though, is that the lucky survivors are tiny tropical insects that few people care about. The species that are being lost rapidly are the large vertebrates that conservationists were worried about in the first place. (more...)

Reader Ranko Bon, in Croatia, asks "One wonders whether biodiversity can be meaningfully measured in percentages though."

Also see these two related reports at Scidevnet. The second piece talks about the biodiversity value of agriculture, which was another theme in a recent biodiversity meeting at the Smithsonian, and in a previous piece in The Economist about the value of betel nut plantations.

One picture that is emerging from many of the ongoing discussions is that protecting biodiversity requires landscape-level management, where you plan your protected areas, buffer zones where sympathetic agriculture happens, biodiversity corridors and stepping stones to allow species to move from one part of the landscape to another. A stepping stone is a series of pieces of habitat that let airborne animals move from one piece of habitat to another.

'Comeback' forests rich in biodiversity, say scientists. Tropical forests that grow back following deforestation are unexpectedly rich in plant and animal life that can help conservation efforts.

Traditional coffee farms 'improve tree biodiversity'. Shade-grown coffee farms are rich in native tree species and are important corridors of genetic diversity linking forests, say researchers.