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Soil erosion as a resilience drain in disturbed tropical forests

Across the tropics, variation in rainfall erosivity – a measure of potential soil exposure to water erosion – indicates that soils in the wetter regions would experience high erosion rates if they were not protected by tree cover. This article addresses the role of soil erosion in a positive feedback mechanism that may persistently alter the functioning of disturbed tropical forests. Overall, the strength of the erosion feedback depends on disturbance types and regimes, as well as on local environmental conditions, such as topography, flooding, and soil fertility. As disturbances intensify in tropical landscapes, we argue that the erosion feedback may help to explain why certain forests persist in a degraded state and often undergo critical functional shifts.