High carbon stock forests provide co-benefits for tropical biodiversity.

Published online
02 May 2018
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Deere, N. J. & Guillera-Arroita, G. & Baking, E. L. & Bernard, H. & Pfeifer, M. & Reynolds, G. & Wearn, O. R. & Davies, Z. G. & Struebig, M. J.
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Publication language
South East Asia & Asia & Borneo


Carbon-based policies provide powerful opportunities to unite tropical forest conservation with climate change mitigation. However, their effectiveness in delivering biodiversity co-benefits is dependent on high levels of biodiversity being found in high carbon areas. Previous studies have focussed solely on the co-benefits associated with Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) over large spatial scales, with few empirically testing carbon-biodiversity correlations at management unit scales appropriate to decision-makers. Yet, in development frontiers, where most biodiversity and carbon loss occurs, carbon-based policies are increasingly driven by commodity certification schemes, which are applied at the concession level. Working in a typical human-modified landscape in Southeast Asia, we examined the biodiversity value of land prioritised via application of REDD+ or the High Carbon Stock (HCS) approach, the emerging land-use planning tool for oil palm certification. Carbon stocks were estimated via low- and high-resolution datasets derived from global or local-level biomass. Mammalian species richness was predicted using hierarchical Bayesian multispecies occupancy models of camera-trap data from forest and oil palm habitats. At the community level, HCS forest supported comparable mammal diversity to control sites in continuous forest, while lower carbon strata exhibited reduced species occupancy. No association was found between species richness and carbon when the latter was estimated using coarse-resolution data. However, when using high-resolution, locally validated biomass data, diversity demonstrated positive relationships with carbon for threatened and disturbance-sensitive species, suggesting sensitivity of co-benefits to carbon data sources and the species considered. Policy implications. Our work confirms the potential for environmental certification and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation to work in tandem with conservation to mitigate agricultural impacts on tropical forest carbon stocks and biodiversity. Successful implementation of both approaches could be used to direct development to low carbon, low biodiversity areas in tropical countries.

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