The vulnerability of tropical ecosystems to local and global stressors, including land-use change, pollution and climate change, is assessed in a Review published in this week’s Nature. The authors caution that failure to act decisively - and now - will greatly increase the risk of unprecedented and irrevocable biodiversity loss in the tropics.
Jos Barlow and colleagues report that tropical terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems contain over 78% of the world’s species, including almost all shallow-water corals and more than 90% of terrestrial birds. Yet tropical ecosystems are subject to pervasive and interacting stressors, such as deforestation, overfishing and climate change. The authors explore the effects of these stressors and their interactions with various socio-economic factors - from population growth and globalization to weak governance and inadequate research capacity. Concerted local, national and international actions are urgently required to prevent a collapse of tropical biodiversity, they conclude.
The Review is part of a special package of articles in an Insight on the tropics in this week’s Nature. The collection explores diverse scientific and societal challenges posed by the tropics, and some of the solutions being devised - from efforts to tackle mosquito-borne and non-communicable diseases, to analyses of climate variability and the tropical forest carbon cycle.