Long-term carbon loss in fragmented Neotropical forests

Nat Commun. 2014 Oct 7;5:5037. doi: 10.1038/ncomms6037.


Tropical forests play an important role in the global carbon cycle, as they store a large amount of carbon (C). Tropical forest deforestation has been identified as a major source of CO2 emissions, though biomass loss due to fragmentation--the creation of additional forest edges--has been largely overlooked as an additional CO2 source. Here, through the combination of remote sensing and knowledge on ecological processes, we present long-term carbon loss estimates due to fragmentation of Neotropical forests: within 10 years the Brazilian Atlantic Forest has lost 69 (±14) Tg C, and the Amazon 599 (±120) Tg C due to fragmentation alone. For all tropical forests, we estimate emissions up to 0.2 Pg C y(-1) or 9 to 24% of the annual global C loss due to deforestation. In conclusion, tropical forest fragmentation increases carbon loss and should be accounted for when attempting to understand the role of vegetation in the global carbon balance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomass*
  • Brazil
  • Carbon
  • Carbon Cycle*
  • Carbon Dioxide*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Ecosystem
  • Rainforest*


  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Carbon