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Safeguarding Earth’s tree diversity is a conservation priority due to the importance of trees for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services such as carbon sequestration. Here, we improve the foundation for effective conservation of global tree diversity by analyzing a recently developed database of tree species covering 46,752 species. We quantify range protection and anthropogenic pressures for each species and develop conservation priorities across taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional diversity dimensions. We also assess the effectiveness of several influential proposed conservation prioritization frameworks to protect the top 17% and top 50% of tree priority areas. We find that an average of 50.2% of a tree species’ range occurs in 110-km grid cells without any protected areas (PAs), with 6,377 small-range tree species fully unprotected, and that 83% of tree species experience nonnegligible human pressure across their range on average. Protecting high-priority areas for the top 17% and 50% priority thresholds would increase the average protected proportion of each tree species’ range to 65.5% and 82.6%, respectively, leaving many fewer species (2,151 and 2,010) completely unprotected. The priority areas identified for trees match well to the Global 200 Ecoregions framework, revealing that priority areas for trees would in large part also optimize protection for terrestrial biodiversity overall. Based on range estimates for >46,000 tree species, our findings show that a large proportion of tree species receive limited protection by current PAs and are under substantial human pressure. Improved protection of biodiversity overall would also strongly benefit global tree diversity.more » « less
Climate change is altering disturbance regimes and recovery rates of forests globally. The future of these forests will depend on how climate change interacts with management activities. Forest managers are in critical need of strategies to manage the effects of climate change.
We co‐designed forest management scenarios with forest managers and stakeholders in the Klamath ecoregion of Oregon and California, a seasonally dry forest in the Western US subject to fire disturbances. The resultant scenarios span a broad range of forest and fire management strategies. Using a mechanistic forest landscape model, we simulated the scenarios as they interacted with forest growth, succession, wildfire disturbances and climate change. We analysed the simulations to (a) understand how scenarios affected the fire regime and (b) estimate how each scenario altered potential forest composition.
Within the simulation timeframe (85 years), the scenarios had a large influence on fire regimes, with fire rotation periods ranging from 60 years in a minimal management scenario to 180 years with an industrial forestry style management scenario. Regardless of management strategy, mega‐fires (>100,000 ha) are expected to increase in frequency, driven by stronger climate forcing and extreme fire weather.
High elevation conifers declined across all climate and management scenarios, reflecting an imbalance between forest types, climate and disturbance. At lower elevations (<1,800 m), most scenarios maintained forest cover levels; however, the minimal intervention scenario triggered 5 × 105 ha of mixed conifer loss by the end of the century in favour of shrublands, whereas the maximal intervention scenario added an equivalent amount of mixed conifer.
Policy implications. Forest management scenarios that expand beyond current policies—including privatization and aggressive climate adaptation—can strongly influence forest trajectories despite a climate‐enhanced fire regime. Forest management can alter forest trajectories by increasing the pace and scale of actions taken, such as fuel reduction treatments, or by limiting other actions, such as fire suppression.
null (Ed.)A key feature of life’s diversity is that some species are common but many more are rare. Nonetheless, at global scales, we do not know what fraction of biodiversity consists of rare species. Here, we present the largest compilation of global plant diversity to quantify the fraction of Earth’s plant biodiversity that are rare. A large fraction, ~36.5% of Earth’s ~435,000 plant species, are exceedingly rare. Sampling biases and prominent models, such as neutral theory and the k-niche model, cannot account for the observed prevalence of rarity. Our results indicate that (i) climatically more stable regions have harbored rare species and hence a large fraction of Earth’s plant species via reduced extinction risk but that (ii) climate change and human land use are now disproportionately impacting rare species. Estimates of global species abundance distributions have important implications for risk assessments and conservation planning in this era of rapid global change.more » « less
One of the most fundamental questions in ecology is how many species inhabit the Earth. However, due to massive logistical and financial challenges and taxonomic difficulties connected to the species concept definition, the global numbers of species, including those of important and well-studied life forms such as trees, still remain largely unknown. Here, based on global ground-sourced data, we estimate the total tree species richness at global, continental, and biome levels. Our results indicate that there are ∼73,000 tree species globally, among which ∼9,000 tree species are yet to be discovered. Roughly 40% of undiscovered tree species are in South America. Moreover, almost one-third of all tree species to be discovered may be rare, with very low populations and limited spatial distribution (likely in remote tropical lowlands and mountains). These findings highlight the vulnerability of global forest biodiversity to anthropogenic changes in land use and climate, which disproportionately threaten rare species and thus, global tree richness.more » « less
Addressing global environmental challenges requires access to biodiversity data across wide spatial, temporal and taxonomic scales. Availability of such data has increased exponentially recently with the proliferation of biodiversity databases. However, heterogeneous coverage, protocols, and standards have hampered integration among these databases. To stimulate the next stage of data integration, here we present a synthesis of major databases, and investigate (a) how the coverage of databases varies across taxonomy, space, and record type; (b) what degree of integration is present among databases; (c) how integration of databases can increase biodiversity knowledge; and (d) the barriers to database integration.
Major taxa studied
Plants and vertebrates.
We reviewed 12 established biodiversity databases that mainly focus on geographic distributions and functional traits at global scale. We synthesized information from these databases to assess the status of their integration and major knowledge gaps and barriers to full integration. We estimated how improved integration can increase the data coverage for terrestrial plants and vertebrates.
Every database reviewed had a unique focus of data coverage. Exchanges of biodiversity information were common among databases, although not always clearly documented. Functional trait databases were more isolated than those pertaining to species distributions. Variation and potential incompatibility of taxonomic systems used by different databases posed a major barrier to data integration. We found that integration of distribution databases could lead to increased taxonomic coverage that corresponds to 23 years’ advancement in data accumulation, and improvement in taxonomic coverage could be as high as 22.4% for trait databases.
Rapid increases in biodiversity knowledge can be achieved through the integration of databases, providing the data necessary to address critical environmental challenges. Full integration across databases will require tackling the major impediments to data integration: taxonomic incompatibility, lags in data exchange, barriers to effective data synchronization, and isolation of individual initiatives.