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For this work, in which researchers from 30 countries led by Jingjing Liang, from West Virginia University, (USA), Peter B. Reich from the University of Minnesota and Thomas W. Crowther from Yale University participated, have analyzed the relationship between biodiversity –number of tree species– and forest productivity (BPR, for its acronym in English).
"Knowing this relationship is essential to economically evaluate biodiversity and integrate biological conservation and socioeconomic development of humanity," explains Sergio de Miguel, researcher at the University of Lleida and member of the GFB steering committee. "The loss of biodiversity can increase the degree of vulnerability of rural populations that depend largely on forest resources," he continues.
Forests are the largest repositories of terrestrial biodiversity, but deforestation and climate change threaten half of the tree species. For this study, the researchers have worked on 777,126 plots, in which they have measured more than 30 million trees of 8,737 species distributed in 44 countries around the world. The area analyzed in the study represents the majority of the terrestrial biomass. Until now, studies of this type only handled data on a regional scale.
“Using a single global database, we found that tree diversity improves biomass production on a global scale. This indicates that the world's wood reserves and carbon storage will fall if we continue to lose tree species in our forests ”, Thomas W. Crowther told Sinc.
“There is a direct relationship between the diversity of trees in a forest and the economic benefit it brings. The data from our research put black on white the need to recalculate the value of biodiversity, forest management strategies and priorities when it comes to conserving ”, says Fernando Valladares, co-author of the work and researcher at the National Museum of Natural Sciences.
"In addition, for the first time, the reduction of forest ecosystems, the decrease in wood production and its capacity to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere is evidenced on a global scale in the loss of species," he continues.
Scientists say that reducing forest production would greatly benefit if, instead of promoting monocultures, the focus of forest policies was on the mix of species.
The effects of the reduction of species vary according to the areas of the planet. In areas such as the Amazon, West and Southeast Africa, Southeast China, Myanmar, Nepal or the Malay Archipelago is where the reduction in species richness implies greater losses in productivity in absolute terms, while this reduction affects the forests less. from North America, Northeast Europe, Central Siberia, East Africa or South Central Asia and America.
The GFBI is an international platform for researchers created this year that is committed to collaborative research and seeks to improve knowledge of the patterns and processes associated with the 4 billion hectares of forests on Earth.
"An approach like the one published today in Science is essential to obtain an overview of the consequences of biodiversity loss on a planetary scale and the potential benefits of integrating and promoting forest management that includes biodiversity conservation" , comments Jordi Vayreda, researcher at the Center for Ecological Research and Forest Applications, and co-author of the study.
One of the problems that ecologists face is that there are areas of the planet that have a lot of data compared to other areas for which there is little information. "Initiatives like the GFBI help us share information and better understand how forests work on a planetary scale," adds Vayreda.
"Our findings highlight the need for a reassessment of the world's biodiversity values, forest management strategies, and conservation priorities," Crowther concludes.