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Coincident scales of forest feedback on climate and conservation in a diversity hot spot

By T.J. Webb, K.J. Gaston, L. Hannah and F.I. Woodward

Abstract

The dynamic relationship between vegetation and climate is now widely acknowledged. Climate influences the distribution of vegetation; and through a number of feedback mechanisms vegetation affects climate. This implies that land-use changes such as deforestation will have climatic consequences. However, the spatial scales at which such feedbacks occur remain largely unknown. Here, we use a large database of precipitation and tree cover records for an area of the biodiversity-rich Atlantic forest region in south eastern Brazil to investigate the forest-rainfall feedback at a range of spatial scales from ca 10(1)-10(4) km(2). We show that the strength of the feedback increases up to scales of at least 10(3) km(2), with the climate at a particular locality influenced by the pattern of landcover extending over a large area. Thus, smaller forest fragments, even if well protected, may suffer degradation due to the climate responding to land-use change in the surrounding area. Atlantic forest vertebrate taxa also require large areas of forest to support viable populations. Areas of forest of ca 10(3) km(2) would be large enough to support such populations at the same time as minimizing the risk of climatic feedbacks resulting from deforestation

Publisher: The Royal Society
Year: 2006
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.whiterose.ac.uk:1308

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