The exceptional value of intact forest ecosystems

James E.M. Watson*, Tom Evans, Oscar Venter, Brooke Williams, Ayesha Tulloch, Claire Stewart, Ian Thompson, Justina C. Ray, Kris Murray, Alvaro Salazar, Clive McAlpine, Peter Potapov, Joe Walston, John G. Robinson, Michael Painter, David Wilkie, Christopher Filardi, William F. Laurance, Richard A. Houghton, Sean MaxwellHedley Grantham, Cristián Samper, Stephanie Wang, Lars Laestadius, Rebecca K. Runting, Gustavo A. Silva-Chávez, Jamison Ervin, David Lindenmayer

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    681 Citations (Scopus)


    As the terrestrial human footprint continues to expand, the amount of native forest that is free from significant damaging human activities is in precipitous decline. There is emerging evidence that the remaining intact forest supports an exceptional confluence of globally significant environmental values relative to degraded forests, including imperilled biodiversity, carbon sequestration and storage, water provision, indigenous culture and the maintenance of human health. Here we argue that maintaining and, where possible, restoring the integrity of dwindling intact forests is an urgent priority for current global efforts to halt the ongoing biodiversity crisis, slow rapid climate change and achieve sustainability goals. Retaining the integrity of intact forest ecosystems should be a central component of proactive global and national environmental strategies, alongside current efforts aimed at halting deforestation and promoting reforestation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)599-610
    Number of pages12
    JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


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