Conservation of Tropical Forests in the Anthropocene

David P. Edwards, Jacob B. Socolar, Simon C. Mills, Zuzana Burivalova, Lian Pin Koh, David S. Wilcove

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


If current trends continue, the tropical forests of the Anthropocene will be much smaller, simpler, steeper and emptier than they are today. They will be more diminished in size and heavily fragmented (especially in lowland wet forests), have reduced structural and species complexity, be increasingly restricted to steeper, less accessible areas, and be missing many heavily hunted species. These changes, in turn, will greatly reduce the quality and quantity of ecosystem services that tropical forests can provide. Driving these changes will be continued clearance for farming and monoculture forest plantations, unsustainable selective logging, overhunting, and, increasingly, climate change. Concerted action by local and indigenous communities, environmental groups, governments, and corporations can reverse these trends and, if successful, provide future generations with a tropical forest estate that includes a network of primary forest reserves robustly defended from threats, recovering logged and secondary forests, and resilient community forests managed for the needs of local people. Realizing this better future for tropical forests and people will require formalisation of land tenure for local and indigenous communities, better-enforced environmental laws, the widescale roll-out of payments for ecosystem service schemes, and sustainable intensification of under-yielding farmland, as well as global-scale societal changes, including reduced consumerism, meat consumption, fossil fuel reliance, and population growth. But the time to act is now, while the opportunity remains to protect a semblance of intact, hyperdiverse tropical forests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R1008-R1020
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 7 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience


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