Comparing effects of deforestation and climate change on neotropical dry forests

Study suggests that climate change may be the lesser of two evils when it comes to threats against dry forest tree species in Ecuador

Data resources used via GBIF : 1,140 species occurrences
Cochlospermum vitifolium
Silk cottontree (Cochlospermum vitifolium) by Carlos Arturo Marín Medina via iNaturalist. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Affected by human activities as well as climate change, neotropical dry forests are the most threatened tropical forest ecosystem in the world. The effects of deforestation, land use change and warming climates all pose serious threats to these ecosystems, however, to prioritize conservation efforts a scientific frame for comparing threats is necessary.

In attempt to identify the lesser of two evils, authors of this study examined the effects of climate change and deforestation on 17 tree species in southern Ecuador. Using GBIF-mediated species occurrences combined with WorldClim bioclimatic data, they modelled the distribution of all species and used governmental land-use data to estimate areas lost by deforestation.

Consistent for all but one species, the results of their analysis showed that losses in distribution area from deforestation were significantly greater than compared to those resulting from climate change. While the effects of the latter were more severe for some species, the study clearly suggests that deforestation is the more imminent threat to neotropical dry forests.

Link to original article

Manchego CE, Hildebrandt P, Cueva J, Espinosa CI, Stimm B and Günter S (2017) Climate change versus deforestation: Implications for tree species distribution in the dry forests of southern Ecuador. PLOS ONE. Public Library of Science (PLoS) 12(12): e0190092. Available at:

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  • Germany
  • Ecuador
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  • Ecuador
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  • Climate change
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  • Data analysis