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Impacts of incentives to reduce emissions from deforestation on global species extinctions


Deforestation is a major source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions1, and the greatest single driver of species extinctions2. The reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) has been formally recognized as a climate change mitigation option. REDD might have important co-benefits for biodiversity conservation3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10, yet the extent of these benefits will depend on as-yet untested associations between fine-scale spatial patterns of deforestation, species distributions and carbon stocks. Here we combine a global land-use model11 and spatial data on species distributions12,13,14 to explore scenarios of future deforestation within REDD-eligible countries, to quantify and map the potential impacts on species extinctions as increased by forest loss and decreased by carbon conservation. We found that the continuation of historical deforestation rates is likely to result in large numbers of species extinctions, but that an adequately funded REDD programme could substantially reduce these losses. Under our deforestation scenarios, the projected benefits of REDD were remarkably consistent across the four methods used to estimate extinctions, but spatially variable, and highly dependent on the level of carbon payments. Our results indicate that, if well designed, adequately funded and broadly implemented, carbon-based forest conservation could play a major role in biodiversity conservation as well as climate change mitigation.

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Figure 1: Changes in forest cover over the twenty-first century, within presumed REDD-eligible regions.
Figure 2: Number of estimated species extinctions under each scenario of carbon price, over time.
Figure 3: Relationship between carbon price and the estimated effects of REDD in avoiding extinctions.
Figure 4: Spatial patterns of estimated species extinctions under different scenarios.


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A.B. and R.K.T. acknowledge the support of the Leverhulme Trust’s Valuing the Arc Programme. M.O., M.G. and S.F. were funded by the GEOBENE project (grant agreement 037063, GOCE) under the European Community’s Sixth Framework Programme. B.B.N.S. was supported by CAPES.

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B.B.N.S. and A.S.L.R contributed equally to this work. The study was conceived by B.B.N.S.. The initial design was developed by B.B.N.S., A.S.L.R., T.M.B. and M.O., A.S.L.R., M.G. and B.B.N.S. conducted the analyses. All authors contributed technical expertise and interpreted the results. B.B.N.S. and A.S.L.R. wrote the initial draft of the manuscript. All authors commented on subsequent drafts.

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Correspondence to Bernardo B. N. Strassburg.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Strassburg, B., Rodrigues, A., Gusti, M. et al. Impacts of incentives to reduce emissions from deforestation on global species extinctions. Nature Clim Change 2, 350–355 (2012).

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