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Sci Adv. 2018 Mar 28;4(3):eaar6603. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aar6603. eCollection 2018 Mar.

Reconciling biodiversity and carbon stock conservation in an Afrotropical forest landscape.

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Evolutionary Ecology Group, University of Antwerp, 2020 Antwerp, Belgium.
Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-4210, USA.
Faculty of Sciences, University of Kisangani, Kisangani, D.R. Congo.
Royal Museum for Central Africa, 3080 Tervuren, Belgium.
ISOFYS Isotope Bioscience Laboratory, Ghent University, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.
Botanic Garden Meise, 1860 Meise, Belgium.
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, 1000 Brussels, Belgium.
CAVElab Computational and Applied Vegetation Ecology, Ghent University, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.
Centre de Surveillance de la Biodiversité, University of Kisangani, Kisangani, D.R. Congo.


Protecting aboveground carbon stocks in tropical forests is essential for mitigating global climate change and is assumed to simultaneously conserve biodiversity. Although the relationship between tree diversity and carbon stocks is generally positive, the relationship remains unclear for consumers or decomposers. We assessed this relationship for multiple trophic levels across the tree of life (10 organismal groups, 3 kingdoms) in lowland rainforests of the Congo Basin. Comparisons across regrowth and old-growth forests evinced the expected positive relationship for trees, but not for other organismal groups. Moreover, differences in species composition between forests increased with difference in carbon stock. These variable associations across the tree of life contradict the implicit assumption that maximum co-benefits to biodiversity are associated with conservation of forests with the highest carbon storage. Initiatives targeting climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation should include both old-growth and regenerating forests to optimally benefit biodiversity and carbon storage.

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