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Unveiling African rainforest composition and vulnerability to global change

This study reveals the composition of the tropical forests of Central Africa and their vulnerability to the increased pressure from climate change and human activity expected in the coming decades. Thanks to an exceptional dataset — an inventory of over 6 million trees across five countries — the researchers have produced the first continuous maps of the floristic and functional composition of these forests, allowing them to identify the most vulnerable areas.

The results were published in the journal Nature in April 2021. For the full article, see “Unveiling African rainforest composition and vulnerability to global change.” The study was coordinated by researchers from French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) and French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and involved several other institutions including the Congo Basin Institute.

a, Composite map of the vulnerability to climate change and of the forecasted human-induced forest-disturbance intensity by 2085. Areas in magenta are predicted to be the most vulnerable to both climate change and anthropogenic pressure; areas in green are predicted to be to the least vulnerable to both climate change and anthropogenic pressure; areas in blue are predicted to be the most vulnerable to climate change but the least vulnerable to anthropogenic pressure; and areas in orange are predicted to be the least vulnerable to climate change but the most vulnerable to anthropogenic pressure. b, Projected human-induced forest-disturbance intensity in 2085. c–e, Vulnerability to climate change was estimated as the sensitivity to current climate (c) plus the exposure to forecasted climate changes by 2085 (under the RCP 4.5 scenario) (d) minus the adaptive capacity of tree communities using phylogenetic diversity as a proxy (e).