Why Pantropica?

By 2050, over half of the world’s population will live in the tropics1, placing increasing pressures on low-latitude forests, which are already some of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. In the face of wildfires, public health emergencies, and annual deforestation equivalent to roughly the size of Portugal2, tropical forests are key battlegrounds for the ongoing fight for a sustainable Earth. Human impacts on these environments have not only consequences for local biota, soils, and climates, but, through a series of earth system feedbacks, can control planetary biodiversity, precipitation, and the carbon cycle – processes that will ultimately affect each and every one of us3. Given the critical role of tropical forests in absorbing, regulating and responding to human activity globally, it is no surprise that they are seen as a critical aspect of the phenomenon that we have come to know as the ‘Anthropocene’4.

However, feedbacks between humans and tropical forests are not novel within the post-industrial world. Despite common stereotypes, these habitats are, in fact, far from ‘pristine’. Archaeological, historical, and palaeoenvironmental research reveals that people actively managed these systems from at least 45,000 years ago5. From Late Pleistocene hunter-gatherers, to the drastic political, economic, and social upheaval associated with European colonisation, pre-industrial societies have left a distinct mark on the extent, composition, soils and disturbance dynamics of the global tropics. We contend that, in order to fully disentangle past and future dynamics of tropical systems and their relationship with humans, archaeologists, historians, ecologists, earth scientists, climate scientists, anthropologists, conservationists, and policy makers need to unite under a multidisciplinary ‘pan-tropical’ framework.

Getting Involved

Coming out of the ongoing European Research Council Grant ‘PANTROPOCENE’ the ‘PANTROPICA’ online initiative seeks to provide a space for researchers, Indigenous and local communities, and conservation policy makers to publicly share research outputs, projects, events, fieldwork and research experiences through blogs, and news in relation to the tropical forests. In doing so, PANTROPICA will enable the wider sharing of information across continents, disciplines, and cultures, in order to help promote more synthetic, diverse approaches to the investigation of crucial environments that have stood on the planet far longer than our own species, but that may soon, without action, begin to slip off it entirely. If interested in posting a blog, news item, publication, taking control of our Twitter page (@PantropicaNet), or becoming a formal partner then please contact the Administrators.


[1] State of the Tropics leadership group. State of the Tropics.  (James Cook University, 2014). | [2] Hansen, M. C. et al. High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change. Science 342, 850-853 (2013). | [3] Lawrence, D. & Vandecar, K. Effects of tropical deforestation on climate and agriculture. Nature Climate Change 5, 27-36, doi:10.1038/nclimate2430 (2015). | [4] Malhi, Y., Gardner, T. A., Goldsmith, G. R., Silman, M. R. & Zelazowski, P. Tropical Forests in the Anthropocene. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 39, 125-159, doi:10.1146/annurev-environ-030713-155141 (2014). | [5] Roberts, P., Hunt, C., Arroyo-Kalin, M., Evans, D. & Boivin, N. The deep human prehistory of global tropical forests and its relevance for modern conservation. Nature Plants 3, doi:10.1038/nplants.2017.93 (2017).