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Study: Half of all Amazonian tree species threatened by deforestation

Most parks and reserves in Brazil -- where many tree species are making their last stand -- have no long-term management plans or budgets, researchers point out.

By Brooks Hays
Study: Half of all Amazonian tree species threatened by deforestation
An Acaricuara (Minquartia guianensis) tree is one of many endangered Amazonian species. Photo by William Laurance/Field Musuem

BELEM, Brazil, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- According to research newly published in the journal Science Advances, half of all tree species in the rain forests of the Amazon are on the decline, threatened by deforestation.

It's one of the first studies to look at deforestation in the Amazon on a species-by-species basis. Scientists have been noting the precipitous decline of tree stocks since the 1950s, but most research efforts have focused on total volume.

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A team of international researchers arrived at their findings by comparing species data from a variety of forest surveys with map-based models on deforestation losses. Based on the numbers, between 36 and 57 percent of the Amazon's 15,000 tree species warrant inclusion on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

"We aren't saying that the situation in the Amazon has suddenly gotten worse for tree species," researcher Nigel Pitman, an ecologist with the Field Museum in Chicago, said in a press release. "We're just offering a new estimate of how tree species have been affected by historical deforestation, and how they'll be affected by forest loss in the future."

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Currently, a majority of threatened species grow in protected areas and indigenous territories. But those areas aren't immune to deforestation and human development. Most parks and reserves in Brazil have no long-term management plans or budgets, researchers point out.

"It's a battle we're going to see play out in our lifetimes," explained William Laurance, a researcher and conservationist with James Cook University in Australia. "Either we stand up and protect these critical parks and indigenous reserves, or deforestation will erode them until we see large-scale extinctions."

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