Forest biodiversity, carbon and other ecosystem services: relationships and impacts of deforestation and forest degradation

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REDD+ actions should be based on the best science and on the understanding that forests can provide more than a repository for carbon but also offer a wide range of services beneficial to people. Biodiversity underpins many ecosystem services, one of which is carbon sequestration, and individual species' functional traits play an important role in determining ecological processes. Higher levels of biodiversity generally support greater levels of ecosystem service production than lower levels, and ecosystem properties, such as resilience, are important considerations when managing human-modified ecosystems. Tropical forests have high levels of biodiversity yet have experienced severe impacts from deforestation and degradation, with consequent losses of biodiversity and ecosystem processes that support the provision of ecosystem services, including carbon storage. Tropical montane and dry forests are especially vulnerable. In (sub-) tropical forests recovering from major disturbances, both carbon and biodiversity increase, but recovery rates diminish over time, and recovery of biodiversity is typically much slower than that of carbon. However, (sub-)tropical secondary forests are recognised for their biodiversity onservation values and as important carbon sinks. In many cases, anthropogenic factors - such as land use change, introduction of species or barriers to dispersal - can lead to the creation of ‘novel ecosystems' that are distinct in species composition and functioning. The implications of these novel ecosystems for conserving ecological integrity and provision of ecosystem services remains poorly understood.

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