Neotropical forests (NFs) play a main role in delivering environmental services such as biodiversity conservation and C sink. At the same time, these are some of the most disturbed vegetations in the world, since they are under accelerated rates of suppression and recovery. Conserving the remaining NF and recovering degraded areas is then urgent, although it is not an easy task. Ecological traits are widely varied across NF, as well as their responses to anthropic intervention. Generally, two large groups are observed according to climatic traits: (a) rain forests (RFs), in regions with 6 months or more of precipitation during the year and (b) seasonal dry forests (SDFs), in drier regions. Such forest types show very distinct species composition, α- and β-diversities, as well as functional and biomass dynamics. In this chapter, we both highlight the main differences between RF and DF, from their origin to present-day distribution, species composition, taxonomic and functional diversities, and discuss the predictions for shifts in all these traits during the next decades. Although few certainties, NF potential for mitigation of atmospheric C increases is a consensus among researchers. We also speculate about possible interventions, with the aim of avoiding a drastic future scenario.
Part of the book: Vegetation