Ecol. Lett. (2018)

Habitat destruction and climate change are two of the greatest threats to life on Earth. Tackling these threats requires the protection of habitat in biologically diverse areas, as well as preservation and restoration of areas with high carbon stocks. It would therefore be very convenient if high carbon stock areas also tended to be highly biologically diverse. However, evidence for a positive association between carbon density and species richness is mixed.

Credit: Michael Dwyer/Alamy Stock Photo

In an effort to understand the diversity in the literature, Moreno Di Marco from CSIRO Land & Water, Australia, and co-authors test how carbon density and species richness correlate at different spatial scales and as a function of dependence on a number of environmental variables. They find that the correlation is strong at large spatial scales and becomes weaker at smaller scales. At the ecoregion level correlations are highly variable, but there are opportunities to pursue local carbon conservation with high biodiversity when both species richness and carbon density vary as functions of the same environmental variables (such as temperature, rainfall, soil and elevation). This condition occurs in about 20% of tropical ecoregions. Other ecoregions however require careful planning for both biodiversity and carbon conservation, to avoid potentially perverse outcomes.