The erosion of biodiversity and biomass in the Atlantic Forest biodiversity hotspot

Renato A.F. de Lima*, Alexandre A. Oliveira, Gregory R. Pitta, André L. de Gasper, Alexander C. Vibrans, Jérôme Chave, Hans ter Steege, Paulo I. Prado

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Tropical forests are being deforested worldwide, and the remaining fragments are suffering from biomass and biodiversity erosion. Quantifying this erosion is challenging because ground data on tropical biodiversity and biomass are often sparse. Here, we use an unprecedented dataset of 1819 field surveys covering the entire Atlantic Forest biodiversity hotspot. We show that 83−85% of the surveys presented losses in forest biomass and tree species richness, functional traits, and conservation value. On average, forest fragments have 25−32% less biomass, 23−31% fewer species, and 33, 36, and 42% fewer individuals of late-successional, large-seeded, and endemic species, respectively. Biodiversity and biomass erosion are lower inside strictly protected conservation units, particularly in large ones. We estimate that biomass erosion across the Atlantic Forest remnants is equivalent to the loss of 55−70 thousand km2 of forests or US$2.3−2.6 billion in carbon credits. These figures have direct implications on mechanisms of climate change mitigation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number6347
    Pages (from-to)1-16
    Number of pages16
    JournalNature Communications
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2020


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