Collection |

Forests in the Anthropocene

Forests are multifaceted ecosystems that perform an array of essential functions that both directly and indirectly impact humanity. They act as a nexus of the Earth system’s climate, hydrology and biogeochemical cycles. This function is all the more relevant in the Anthropocene, an epoch characterised by humanity’s impact on our planet, given the vast amounts of carbon locked up in tree biomass that help buffer against anthropogenic carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Forests are also hubs of biodiversity that provide essential resources and services to communities, but they are vulnerable to degradation and deforestation. The study of forests, which also includes their restoration, conservation and sustainable use, thus encompasses a broad suite of scientific disciplines, and research in this field is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary.

This collection has been curated by the Earth science and Ecology editorial teams at Nature Communications in the hope that it will provide a helpful resource for researchers and decision makers in this increasingly interdisciplinary field. The collection is divided into four themes: climate-forest feedbacks, the forest-human interface, the forest carbon sink, and communities and ecosystems. This collection will be updated with new research and opinion pieces on a regular basis.

The editorial accompanying this collection discusses our evolving history with forests and how science can guide us towards living sustainably with these key ecosystems. 

Climate-forest feedbacks

  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    The effect of plants on future extreme heat events under elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) is unclear. Here, the authors show that CO2 plant physiological effects lead to increases in heat waves within a suite of climate model simulations, suggesting that vegetated areas are at risk of increased heat extremes.

    • Christopher B. Skinner
    • , Christopher J. Poulsen
    •  &  Justin S. Mankin
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    It has been suggested that tree phenology may be regulated by climatic oscillations. Here, Detto et al. present a 30 year tropical forest dataset that suggests leaf and fruit production is coordinated with ENSO cycles, with greater leaf fall observed prior to El Niño followed by greater seed production.

    • Matteo Detto
    • , S. Joseph Wright
    • , Osvaldo Calderón
    •  &  Helene C. Muller-Landau
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Deforestation carbon emissions from the Brazilian Amazon have declined steeply, but how much drought-induced forest fire emissions add to this process is still unclear. Here the authors show that gross emissions from forest fires are more than half as great as those from deforestation during drought years.

    • Luiz E. O. C. Aragão
    • , Liana O. Anderson
    • , Marisa G. Fonseca
    • , Thais M. Rosan
    • , Laura B. Vedovato
    • , Fabien H. Wagner
    • , Camila V. J. Silva
    • , Celso H. L. Silva Junior
    • , Egidio Arai
    • , Ana P. Aguiar
    • , Jos Barlow
    • , Erika Berenguer
    • , Merritt N. Deeter
    • , Lucas G. Domingues
    • , Luciana Gatti
    • , Manuel Gloor
    • , Yadvinder Malhi
    • , Jose A. Marengo
    • , John B. Miller
    • , Oliver L. Phillips
    •  &  Sassan Saatchi
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Plant growing season increases under a warming climate, but it is not known whether this will alter plant exposure to frost days. Here Liu et al. investigate trends in the Northern Hemisphere over 30 years and find increased exposure to frost days in regions that have longer growing seasons.

    • Qiang Liu
    • , Shilong Piao
    • , Ivan A. Janssens
    • , Yongshuo Fu
    • , Shushi Peng
    • , Xu Lian
    • , Philippe Ciais
    • , Ranga B. Myneni
    • , Josep Peñuelas
    •  &  Tao Wang
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    The climate impacts of deforestation due to changes in biogenic volatile organic compound emissions, which act as short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs), are poorly understood. Here the authors show that including the impact SLCFs increases the projected warming associated with idealised deforestation scenarios.

    • C. E. Scott
    • , S. A. Monks
    • , D. V. Spracklen
    • , S. R. Arnold
    • , P. M. Forster
    • , A. Rap
    • , M. Äijälä
    • , P. Artaxo
    • , K. S. Carslaw
    • , M. P. Chipperfield
    • , M. Ehn
    • , S. Gilardoni
    • , L. Heikkinen
    • , M. Kulmala
    • , T. Petäjä
    • , C. L. S. Reddington
    • , L. V. Rizzo
    • , E. Swietlicki
    • , E. Vignati
    •  &  C. Wilson
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Climate oscillations affect weather on different temporal-spatial scales, which poses difficulty in understanding how they influence tree reproduction. Here Ascoli et al. show relationships between low- and high-frequency components of the NAO and masting in two European tree species across multiple decades.

    • Davide Ascoli
    • , Giorgio Vacchiano
    • , Marco Turco
    • , Marco Conedera
    • , Igor Drobyshev
    • , Janet Maringer
    • , Renzo Motta
    •  &  Andrew Hacket-Pain

The forest-human interface

  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Expansion of rubber plantations threatens tropical forest carbon stocks and biodiversity, but may be dis-incentivised using carbon finance. Here, Warren-Thomas et al. use forest and agricultural data for Cambodia to show that carbon prices of $30–$51 per tCO2 are needed to match forest protection costs.

    • Eleanor M. Warren-Thomas
    • , David P. Edwards
    • , Daniel P. Bebber
    • , Phourin Chhang
    • , Alex N. Diment
    • , Tom D. Evans
    • , Frances H. Lambrick
    • , James F. Maxwell
    • , Menghor Nut
    • , Hannah J. O’Kelly
    • , Ida Theilade
    •  &  Paul M. Dolman
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Afforestation is often used to increase terrestrial carbon sequestration and restore ecosystem services. Here, the authors show that afforestation can also neutralize soil pH by lowering pH in alkaline soil but raising pH in acid soil, thus further promoting the restoration of ecosystem functions.

    • Songbai Hong
    • , Shilong Piao
    • , Anping Chen
    • , Yongwen Liu
    • , Lingli Liu
    • , Shushi Peng
    • , Jordi Sardans
    • , Yan Sun
    • , Josep Peñuelas
    •  &  Hui Zeng
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    The expansion of agriculture and rangelands can cause ecological spillover effects across cultivated-natural ecosystem boundaries. Here, Luskin et al. show irruptions of oil palm-subsidized wild boar alter the abundance and diversity of understory trees >1 km into a primary forest reserve in Malaysia.

    • Matthew Scott Luskin
    • , Justin S. Brashares
    • , Kalan Ickes
    • , I-Fang Sun
    • , Christine Fletcher
    • , S. Joseph Wright
    •  &  Matthew D. Potts
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Land use and land cover change has led to more frequent hot, dry summers in parts of the mid-latitudes. Here the authors use an Earth system model to show that regions converted to crops and pastures experience hot, dry summers 2 to 4 times more frequently than they would if native forests had remained.

    • Kirsten L. Findell
    • , Alexis Berg
    • , Pierre Gentine
    • , John P. Krasting
    • , Benjamin R. Lintner
    • , Sergey Malyshev
    • , Joseph A. Santanello Jr.
    •  &  Elena Shevliakova
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Industrial mining contributes to deforestation in the Amazon, and the extent of effect could occur beyond areas of land explicitly permitted for mining. Here, Sonter et al. show that deforestation in 70-km buffer zones around mines has led to an estimated 9% of Brazilian Amazon deforestation since 2005.

    • Laura J. Sonter
    • , Diego Herrera
    • , Damian J. Barrett
    • , Gillian L. Galford
    • , Chris J. Moran
    •  &  Britaldo S. Soares-Filho

The forest carbon sink

  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    The existence of a pan-tropical forest carbon sink remains uncertain due to the lack of data from Asia. Here, using direct on-the-ground observations, the authors confirm remaining intact forests in Borneo have provided a long-term carbon sink, but carbon net gains are vulnerable to drought and edge effects.

    • Lan Qie
    • , Simon L. Lewis
    • , Martin J. P. Sullivan
    • , Gabriela Lopez-Gonzalez
    • , Georgia C. Pickavance
    • , Terry Sunderland
    • , Peter Ashton
    • , Wannes Hubau
    • , Kamariah Abu Salim
    • , Shin-Ichiro Aiba
    • , Lindsay F. Banin
    • , Nicholas Berry
    • , Francis Q. Brearley
    • , David F. R. P. Burslem
    • , Martin Dančák
    • , Stuart J. Davies
    • , Gabriella Fredriksson
    • , Keith C. Hamer
    • , Radim Hédl
    • , Lip Khoon Kho
    • , Kanehiro Kitayama
    • , Haruni Krisnawati
    • , Stanislav Lhota
    • , Yadvinder Malhi
    • , Colin Maycock
    • , Faizah Metali
    • , Edi Mirmanto
    • , Laszlo Nagy
    • , Reuben Nilus
    • , Robert Ong
    • , Colin A. Pendry
    • , Axel Dalberg Poulsen
    • , Richard B. Primack
    • , Ervan Rutishauser
    • , Ismayadi Samsoedin
    • , Bernaulus Saragih
    • , Plinio Sist
    • , J. W. Ferry Slik
    • , Rahayu Sukmaria Sukri
    • , Martin Svátek
    • , Sylvester Tan
    • , Aiyen Tjoa
    • , Mark van Nieuwstadt
    • , Ronald R. E. Vernimmen
    • , Ishak Yassir
    • , Petra Susan Kidd
    • , Muhammad Fitriadi
    • , Nur Khalish Hafizhah Ideris
    • , Rafizah Mat Serudin
    • , Layla Syaznie Abdullah Lim
    • , Muhammad Shahruney Saparudin
    •  &  Oliver L. Phillips
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Reliable estimates of the total forest carbon (C) pool are lacking due to insufficient information on dead organic matter (DOM). Here, the authors estimate that the current DOM C stock in China is 925 ± 54 Tg and that it grew by 6.7 ± 2.2 Tg C/yr over the past two decades primarily due to increasing forest area

    • Jianxiao Zhu
    • , Huifeng Hu
    • , Shengli Tao
    • , Xiulian Chi
    • , Peng Li
    • , Lai Jiang
    • , Chengjun Ji
    • , Jiangling Zhu
    • , Zhiyao Tang
    • , Yude Pan
    • , Richard A. Birdsey
    • , Xinhua He
    •  &  Jingyun Fang
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Vast quantities of carbon stored in tropical forests are threatened by deforestation. Here, using high resolution satellite data, Brinck et al. examine how edge effects influence carbon emissions and they find an additional 10.3 Gt of carbon are released by deforestation when including fragmentation effects.

    • Katharina Brinck
    • , Rico Fischer
    • , Jürgen Groeneveld
    • , Sebastian Lehmann
    • , Mateus Dantas De Paula
    • , Sandro Pütz
    • , Joseph O. Sexton
    • , Danxia Song
    •  &  Andreas Huth
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Defaunation is linked to the decline of tree species that depend on large animals for seed dispersal, but it is unclear if this affects carbon storage. Here the authors show that defaunation effects on carbon storage vary across continents, driven by relationships between seed dispersal strategies and adult tree size.

    • Anand M. Osuri
    • , Jayashree Ratnam
    • , Varun Varma
    • , Patricia Alvarez-Loayza
    • , Johanna Hurtado Astaiza
    • , Matt Bradford
    • , Christine Fletcher
    • , Mireille Ndoundou-Hockemba
    • , Patrick A. Jansen
    • , David Kenfack
    • , Andrew R. Marshall
    • , B. R. Ramesh
    • , Francesco Rovero
    •  &  Mahesh Sankaran
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Site-level quantification of Net Ecosystem Production (NEP) and associated components rely on eddy covariance and biometric methods. Here these techniques are compared for global forest carbon fluxes, revealing differences in NEP, but similar estimates of ecosystem respiration and gross primary production.

    • M. Campioli
    • , Y. Malhi
    • , S. Vicca
    • , S. Luyssaert
    • , D. Papale
    • , J. Peñuelas
    • , M. Reichstein
    • , M. Migliavacca
    • , M. A. Arain
    •  &  I. A. Janssens

Communities and ecosystems

  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    As remote sensing technology improves, it is now possible to map fine-scale variation in plant functional traits. Schneider et al. remotely sense tree functional diversity, validate with field data, and reveal patterns of plant adaptation to the environment previously not retrievable from plot data

    • Fabian D. Schneider
    • , Felix Morsdorf
    • , Bernhard Schmid
    • , Owen L. Petchey
    • , Andreas Hueni
    • , David S. Schimel
    •  &  Michael E. Schaepman
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Earth system model simulations of future climate in the Amazon show little agreement. Here, the authors show that biases in internally generated climate explain most of this uncertainty and that the balance between water-saturated and water-limited evapotranspiration controls the Amazon resilience to climate change.

    • Anders Ahlström
    • , Josep G. Canadell
    • , Guy Schurgers
    • , Minchao Wu
    • , Joseph A. Berry
    • , Kaiyu Guan
    •  &  Robert B. Jackson
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Deforestation and edge effects around cleared areas impact forest stability. Here, the authors examine human impacts on Amazonian forest-savanna bistability and show that tree cover bimodality is enhanced in regions close to human activities and is nearly absent in regions unaffected by human activities.

    • Bert Wuyts
    • , Alan R. Champneys
    •  &  Joanna I. House
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Dust is an important nutrient source to landscapes, but often the source of dust is poorly constrained. Here, the authors quantify the origin of different dust sources in the Sierra Nevada by analysing dust composition and suggest exogenic dust may drive nutrient budgets in montane ecosystems.

    • S. M. Aciego
    • , C. S. Riebe
    • , S. C. Hart
    • , M. A. Blakowski
    • , C. J. Carey
    • , S. M. Aarons
    • , N. C. Dove
    • , J. K. Botthoff
    • , K. W. W. Sims
    •  &  E. L. Aronson
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Invasive brown treesnakes decimated the forest bird community on the island of Guam. Now, Rogers and colleagues document the indirect effects of the snake on trees, linking snake-initiated bird loss to reduced seed dispersal and plant recruitment on Guam compared to nearby uninvaded islands.

    • Haldre S. Rogers
    • , Eric R. Buhle
    • , Janneke HilleRisLambers
    • , Evan C. Fricke
    • , Ross H. Miller
    •  &  Joshua J. Tewksbury
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Land use becomes more diverse when it considers uncertain interactions of multiple ecosystem services. Here, Knoke and colleagues show that uncertainty plays a larger role if ecosystem services are optimized only for a single service, or if services correlate.

    • Thomas Knoke
    • , Carola Paul
    • , Patrick Hildebrandt
    • , Baltazar Calvas
    • , Luz Maria Castro
    • , Fabian Härtl
    • , Martin Döllerer
    • , Ute Hamer
    • , David Windhorst
    • , Yolanda F. Wiersma
    • , Giulia F. Curatola Fernández
    • , Wolfgang A. Obermeier
    • , Julia Adams
    • , Lutz Breuer
    • , Reinhard Mosandl
    • , Erwin Beck
    • , Michael Weber
    • , Bernd Stimm
    • , Wolfgang Haber
    • , Christine Fürst
    •  &  Jörg Bendix