Tropical forest biodiversity is declining, but the resulting effects on key ecosystem services, such as carbon storage and sequestration, remain unknown. We assessed the influence of the loss of tropical tree species on carbon storage by simulating 18 possible extinction scenarios within a well-studied 50-hectare tropical forest plot in Panama, which contains 227 tree species. Among extinction scenarios, aboveground carbon stocks varied by more than 600%, and biological insurance varied by more than 400%. These results indicate that future carbon storage in tropical forests will be influenced strongly by future species composition.
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