Deforestation has an undeniable negative effect on biodiversity and on ecosystems. However, some species that live on the edges of forests could stand to benefit from new environments created, according to a study from the French National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA) and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).
Forests are a major supply source underpinning human activity. Every year, 25% of the global plant production is collected my mankind – that is more than 113 tons of biomass, for an average of 16 tons per capita. Given current birth rates, it is believed that the global human consumption will reach 140 tons per year in 2050. This development will not come without consequences, says a recent study published by a conglomerate of scientists, including the French National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA) and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).
Their results were published in the science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in the United States. They point at a worrying phenomenon: “During the last decades, human activity has led to the extinction of many species, both locally and globally. At the same time, activities such as agro-farming, forestry plantation as well as the induction and expansion of exotic species have led to a growing homogenisation of ecosystems.” This phenomenon, often called the “MacDonald Effect”, affects the ecosystems responsible for services such as wood production and carbon sequestration.
Brutal deforestation is no longer a concern in Europe. However, woods are more and more fragmented. Currently, about 70% of forest areas are less then 1 km in size. According to a study led by Professor Marion Pfeifer from Newcastle University, this phenomenon creates both losers and winners. She says “519 species tend to rarefy due to deforestation, while on the contrary, 338 do well.”
In European wildlife, the main beneficiaries of this trend are deer populations. They typically live at the edges of forests, and thrive under these new conditions. Amongst vertebrates, birds fare the best (probably thanks to their significant mobility), with most species showing positive or unchanged population prospects. On the contrary, amphibians and reptiles suffer the most from the alteration of their habitat.