Millennial-scale effects of human disturbance on tropical forests | 3/19/2019 | Staff
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How do human disturbances and climate change affected tropical forests? An international research team, including ecologists from the University of Amsterdam, has looked into the 7000 year history of a tropical Amazonian forest. They reveal that human disturbance, more than climate change, affects the species composition of tropical forests over the last millennia. The results, including important implications for forest management, are now published in the scientific journal Ecology Letters.

Humans and climate change affect the species composition and productivity of tropical forests, with consequences for the biodiversity and carbon storage potential of these forest. To understand how forest communities respond to environmental change and human disturbances, previous studies have looked into specific functional plant traits (e.g. wood density) in response to a changing environment. However, the main underlying causes of shifts in forest communities remain unclear because of the short temporal scales of most studies.

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A new study by a group of international researchers now linked the functional plant trait data with a 7000 year old fossil pollen record of forest dynamics in Lake Sauce, in the Peruvian Amazon.

Masha van der Sande is lead author of the study and works as tropical ecologist at the UvA Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, Florida Institute of Technology, and Wageningen University and Research: "We expected that the trait composition of tropical...
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