Carbon-focused conservation may fail to protect the most biodiverse tropical forests

Carbon-focused conservation may fail to protect the most biodiverse tropical forests


The authors examine the relationship between carbon and biodiversity at the landscape-level across four gradients of disturbances and offer insight on optimizing carbon conservation projects with biodiversity conservation.


The study samples species of plants, birds, and dung beetles across 234 forest sites with varying levels of human-induced disturbance in the Brazilian state of Pará. For each site, species richness (number of species) and its structural similarity to undisturbed forests are used to measure site biodiversity.
Differences in species diversity under two scenarios, when either carbon or biodiversity is maximised in conservation projects, are estimated using optimisation models.


The study demonstrates that carbon maximizing projects do not always yield high biodiversity returns. The positive correlation between carbon and biodiversity in degraded landscapes yields higher biodiversity returns from carbon enhancement projects. In contrast, the conservation of carbon-rich undisturbed forests does not translate to proportional biodiversity returns, but could be improved with small carbon penalties.

These findings have significant implications for integrating carbon and biodiversity conservation of forests, and strategizing policies and finance mechanisms that ensure optimum carbon storage and biodiversity conservation.


Ferreira, Joice, Gareth D. Lennox, Toby A. Gardner, James R. Thomson, Erika Berenguer, Alexander C. Lees, Ralph Mac Nally, et al. “Carbon-Focused Conservation May Fail to Protect the Most Biodiverse Tropical Forests.” Nature Climate Change 8, no. 8 (2018): 744–49.


  • EMBRAPA Amazônia Oriental
  • Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
  • Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  • Division of Biology and Conservation Ecology, School of Science and the Environment, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK
  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
  • Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  • Tropical Ecosystems and Environmental Sciences Group, Remote Sensing Division, National Institute for Space Research, Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil
  • Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Piracicaba, Brazil
  • Setor de Ecologia e Conservação, Universidade Federal de Lavras, Lavras, Brazil
  • MCTI/Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, Belém, Brazil
  • Instituto de Biociencias, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Departamento de Biologia Geral, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazi