This is how defaunation leads to carbon imbalance in tropical forests

Last Updated: Apr 26, 2016, 19:36 PM IST
This is how defaunation leads to carbon imbalance in tropical forests

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: Tropical forests are the regulators of earth's climate change. They absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas and produce oxygen which is essential for all animals. And that's why they often called as 'lungs of the planet'.

A home of about 70% to 90% of the world's biodiversity, these forests are under severe threat today.

Defaunation and deforestation are the two main factors responsible for the loss of tropical forests.

Recently researchers from National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bengaluru, Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) in Mysuru, University of Leeds (United Kingdom) and 12 other academic and conservation institutions revealed how defaunation- loss of animals from ecological communities- is affecting the carbon cycle of tropical forests.

Tropical forests have high potential to store carbon dioxide and depend on large animals for their seed dispersal.

The research highlighted that large seeded tree species depends on big animals for their seed dispersal to grow greater in sizes as adults with high carbon storing potential as compared to the species with smaller seeds in tropical forests worldwide.

So, loss of their seed- dispersers can dramatically reduce the number of tropical plants which thereby decrease the volume of vegetation biomass in these forests.

The forests of America, Africa and South Asia will face the "most severe reductions of carbon storage" in near future due to spike in decline of animals for seed dispersal.

The study published in Nature Communications predicts that if 50 percent of all trees dispersed by large animals were replaced over time by trees with other modes of seed dispersal, carbon storage in tropical forests of the Americas, Africa and South Asia would be reduced by two percent, which is roughly equivalent to 14 years' worth of Amazonian deforestation, said Mahesh Sankaran, affiliated to NCBS and University of Leeds.

(With IANS inputs)