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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-221
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-221
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Ideas and perspectives 05 Jul 2019

Ideas and perspectives | 05 Jul 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).

A social-ecological approach to identify and quantify biodiversity tipping points in South America's seasonal dry ecosystems

Kirsten Thonicke1, Fanny Langerwisch1,2, Matthias Baumann3, Pedro J. Leitão3,4, Tomáš Václavík5,6, Ane Alencar7, Margareth Simões8,9, Simon Scheiter10, Liam Langan10, Mercedes Bustamante11, Ignacio Gasparri12, Marina Hirota13,14, Jan Börner15, Raoni Rajao16, Britaldo Soares-Filho16, Alberto Yanosky17, José-Manuel Ochoa-Quinteiro18, Lucas Seghezzo19, Georgina Conti20, and Anne Cristina de la Vega-Leinert21 Kirsten Thonicke et al.
  • 1Earth System Analysis, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), P.O. Box 60 12 03, D-1412 Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (CULS), Kamýcká 129, 165 00 Praha 6 – Suchdol, Czech Republic
  • 3Geography Department, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, D-10099 Berlin, Germany
  • 4Department Landscape Ecology and Environmental System Analysis, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Langer Kamp 19c, D-38106 Braunschweig, Germany
  • 5Department of Computational Landscape Ecology, UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Permoserstraße 15, D-04318 Leipzig, Germany
  • 6Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, Palacký University Olomouc, Šlechtitelů 27, 78371 Olomouc, Czech Republic
  • 7O Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (IPAM), Bairro Asa Norte, Brasilia-DF, 70863-520, Brazil
  • 8Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (EMBRAPA), Soil Institute, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • 9Rio de Janeiro State University UERJ/FEN/DESC/PPGMA, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • 10Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Senckenberganlage 25, D-60325 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 11Instituto de Ciências Biologicas, Universidade de Brasília, Campus Universitário Darcy Ribeiro - Asa Norte, 70910 Brasília, Brazil
  • 12Instituto de Ecología Regional, Conicet - Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, Argentina
  • 13Department of Physics, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, Brazil
  • 14Institute of Biology, University of Campinas, Campinas, Brazil
  • 15Institute for Food and Resource Economics and Center for Development Research, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany
  • 16Centro de Sensoriamento Remoto, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Av. Antônio Carlos, 6627, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
  • 17Asociación Guyra Paraguay - CONACYT Paraguay, Asunción, Paraguay
  • 18Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt, Bogotá, Colombia
  • 19Instituto de Investigaciones en Energía No Convencional, CONICET, Universidad Nacional de Salta, Salta, Argentina
  • 20Instituto Multidisciplinario de Biología Vegetal, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas Físicas y Naturales, IMBiV (CONICET-UNC), Córdoba, Argentina
  • 21Institute of Geography and Geology, University Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany

Abstract. Tropical dry forests and savannas harbour unique biodiversity and provide critical ES, yet they are under severe pressure globally. We need to improve our understanding of how and when this pressure provokes tipping points in biodiversity and the associated social-ecological systems. We propose an approach to investigate how drivers leading to natural vegetation decline trigger biodiversity tipping and illustrate it using the example of the Dry Diagonal in South America, an understudied deforestation frontier.

The Dry Diagonal represents the largest continuous area of dry forests and savannas in South America, extending over three million km² across Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay. Natural vegetation in the Dry Diagonal has been undergoing large-scale transformations for the past 30 years due to massive agricultural expansion and intensification. Many signs indicate that natural vegetation decline has reached critical levels. Major research gaps prevail, however, in our understanding of how these transformations affect the unique and rich biodiversity of the Dry Diagonal, and how this affects the ecological integrity and the provisioning of ES that are critical both for local livelihoods and commercial agriculture.

Inspired by social-ecological systems theory, our approach helps to explain:
(i) how drivers of natural vegetation decline affect the functioning of ecosystems, and thus ecological integrity,
(ii) under which conditions, where, and at which scales the loss of ecological integrity may lead to biodiversity tipping points, and
(iii) how these biodiversity tipping points may impact human well-being.
Implementing such an approach with the greater aim of furthering more sustainable land use in the Dry Diagonal requires a transdisciplinary collaborative network, which in a first step integrates extensive observational data from the field and remote sensing with advanced ecosystem and biodiversity models. Secondly, it integrates knowledge obtained from dialogue processes with local and regional actors as well as meta-models describing the actor network. The co-designed methodological framework can be applied not only to define, detect, and map biodiversity tipping points across spatial and temporal scales, but also to evaluate the effects of tipping points on ES and livelihoods. This framework could be used to inform policy making, enrich planning processes at various levels of governance, and potentially contribute to prevent biodiversity tipping points in the Dry Diagonal and beyond.

Kirsten Thonicke et al.
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Short summary
Tropical dry forests and savannas harbor unique biodiversity and provide critical ecosystem services (ES), yet they are under severe pressure globally. We need to improve our understanding of how and when this pressure provokes tipping points in biodiversity and the associated social-ecological systems. We propose an approach to investigate how drivers leading to natural vegetation decline trigger biodiversity tipping and illustrate it using the example of the Dry Diagonal in South America.
Tropical dry forests and savannas harbor unique biodiversity and provide critical ecosystem...
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