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The future of hyperdiverse tropical ecosystems


The tropics contain the overwhelming majority of Earth’s biodiversity: their terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems hold more than three-quarters of all species, including almost all shallow-water corals and over 90% of terrestrial birds. However, tropical ecosystems are also subject to pervasive and interacting stressors, such as deforestation, overfishing and climate change, and they are set within a socio-economic context that includes growing pressure from an increasingly globalized world, larger and more affluent tropical populations, and weak governance and response capacities. Concerted local, national and international actions are urgently required to prevent a collapse of tropical biodiversity.

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Fig. 1: The tropical biosphere.
Fig. 2: Tropical hyperdiversity.
Fig. 3: Vulnerability of tropical biota to local and climatic stressors.
Fig. 4: Tropical ecosystems in transition.
Fig. 5: Socio-economic drivers of biodiversity loss and societal response capacities.


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We thank the following for providing data: Birdlife International, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Ocean Biogeographic Information System, C. Veron for zooxanthellate corals, the Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Program (LBA) and National Environment Research Council grant NE/P004512/1 for forest birds, John Fell Fund for savannah birds, Pew Marine Fellows Program of The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Brazilian Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) (PELD 441659/2016-0). Individual funding was provided by National Environment Research Council NE/K016431/1; NE/P004512/1; NE/L000016/1; European Research Council 759457; H2020-MSCA-RISE (691053-ODYSSEA); NASA’s Interdisciplinary Research in Earth Sciences program (NNX14AD29G); OIST and JSPS KAKENHI (JP17K15180); CNPq scientific productivity grant (307788/2017-2); CNPq Programa de Capacitação Institucional (300231/2016-4); Royal Society (UF140691) and Swedish Research Council Formas grant (2016-00351).

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Nature thanks N. Knowlton, C. Mora and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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J.B. developed the review with input from N.A.J.G., T.A.G., C.C.H., A.C.L. and J.F. F.F. and G.D.L. analysed the data, supported by J.B., T.A.G., C.C.H., E.B., L.C., E.P.E., B.G., C.G.L., V.I., A.C.L., C.L.P., S.K.W., P.J.Y. and N.A.J.G. J.B., T.A.G., C.C.H., N.A.J.G., L.C., A.C.L., C.L.P., F.F. and G.D.L. wrote the manuscript with input from all authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jos Barlow.

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Supplementary Table 1

This table lists the original data sources.

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Barlow, J., França, F., Gardner, T.A. et al. The future of hyperdiverse tropical ecosystems. Nature 559, 517–526 (2018).

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