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Novelty in Tropical Forests

Photo of Map of Venezuela showing the location of 90 vegetation plots in the Llanos region. Data from G. Aymard and the cartography is by O. Ramos-González (USDA FS IITF). Figure from: Lugo, Ariel E.; Martínez, Oscar J. A.; Medina, Ernesto; Aymard, Gerardo; Heartsill-Scalley, Tamara. 2020. Novelty in the tropical forests of the 21st century. Tropical Ecosystems in the 21st Century, Advances in Ecological Research, Volume 62, 53-116. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.aecr.2020.01.008Map of Venezuela showing the location of 90 vegetation plots in the Llanos region. Data from G. Aymard and the cartography is by O. Ramos-González (USDA FS IITF). Figure from: Lugo, Ariel E.; Martínez, Oscar J. A.; Medina, Ernesto; Aymard, Gerardo; Heartsill-Scalley, Tamara. 2020. Novelty in the tropical forests of the 21st century. Tropical Ecosystems in the 21st Century, Advances in Ecological Research, Volume 62, 53-116. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.aecr.2020.01.008Snapshot : Identifying interventions that help reduce ecosystem service tradeoffs in novel forests can contribute towards resilient social-ecological technological forest systems. Viewed from the point of view of biodiversity and conservation biology, the future of tropical forests depends on what managers and conservationists can accomplish before current forests collapse or are converted to other land cover. 

Principal Investigators(s) :
Lugo, ArielHeartsill Scalley, Tamara
Research Location : Tropical forests, including Venezuela and Puerto Rico
Research Station : International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)
Year : 2020
Highlight ID : 1640

Summary

Will the tropical forests of the future conform to historical species combinations or will the mixing of species lead to novel secondary forests? Will they function at similar rates as historical secondary forests do? The answers to these questions require the contributions of many disciplines because of the complexity introduced by human activities and the ever-changing environmental conditions.  To explore the future conditions and composition of tropical forests, and the implications for ecosystems process such as element cycling and carbon accumulation, researchers and collaborators analyzed data from permanent long-term forest plots in the lowlands of Venezuela and supplemented the findings with a review of scientific literature relevant to assessing the future of tropical forests. Compared to current conditions, tropical forests in the future will have new combinations of species previously not observed.  Defined as forest novelty, these new combinations based on mostly native species at continental scales take into account the current composition of a system relative to a historical baseline.  Increasing human activity that modifies the landscape and climate change contribute to generation of novelty, and the resulting forests are termed novel forests to distinguish them from historical forests.  This novelty likely contributes to the persistence of tropical forests in the presence of increasing levels of human activity. Novel forests are an answer to the changes induced by climate change and other anthropogenic disturbances, and as such require conservation measures, because as they mature, novel forests usually diversify and help restore lost biodiversity. This research also reviews strategies to conserve biodiversity and optimize ecological services using novel forest succession.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • Ernesto Medina
  • Gerardo Aymard
  •  Oscar J. Abelleira Martínez