Estimated population declines and threat status of Amazonian tree species under historical deforestation and two projected deforestation scenarios. Top row: Percent population loss of 4953 tree species in the entire Amazon and in six Amazonian regions. Middle row: Percent species in a DGC estimated as globally threatened based on projected forest loss. Bottom row: Proportion of all 15,200 Amazonian tree species estimated to be globally threatened based on four different IUCN threat criteria. Graphic: ter Steege, et al., 2015 / Science Advances

By Damian Carrington
20 November 2015

(The Guardian) – More than half the myriad tree species in the Amazon could be heading for extinction, according to a study that makes the first comprehensive estimate of threatened species in the world’s largest rainforest. Among the species expected to suffer significant falls in numbers are the Brazil nut, and wild cacao and açai trees, all important food sources.

The world’s most diverse forest has endured decades of deforestation, with loggers, farmers, and miners responsible for the removal of 12% of its area. If that continues in the decades ahead, 57% of the 15,000 tree species will be in danger, according to the researchers.

However, if existing protected areas and indigenous territories across the vast area suffer no further damage, the number of species at risk would be restricted to a third of the total.

“Forests in the Amazon have been declining since the 1950s, but [until now] there was a poor understanding of how this has affected populations of individual species,” said Prof Carlos Peres, at the University of East Anglia, one of the 158 scientists from 21 countries who worked together on the study.

“Protected areas and indigenous territories now cover over half of the Amazon basin. But forests and reserves still face a barrage of threats, from dam construction and mining, to wildfires and droughts intensified by global warming.”

Brazil, which holds 60% of the Amazon forest, has sharply cut its rates of deforestation in the last decade. But elsewhere the felling continues unchecked, and it is increasing in Bolivia and Peru. Overall, an area the size of about 4,500 football pitches is still being lost every day.

If Brazil can restrict its deforestation to current levels and other countries improve to match that, protected areas could remain largely untouched. But Rafael Salomão, of Emílio Goeldi Museum in Belem, Brazil, and a member of the research team, said: “The vast majority of protected areas in the Amazon have no management plan or budget and few resident qualified personnel.”

Furthermore, demand for beef, soy and palm oil, which drives much deforestation, is likely to rise rapidly as the global population grows, increasing the pressure to clear more forest. “It’s a battle we’re going to see play out in our lifetimes,” said William Laurance, of James Cook University in Australia, who was also part of the study. [more]

Half of tree species in the Amazon at risk of extinction, say scientists

ABSTRACT: Estimates of extinction risk for Amazonian plant and animal species are rare and not often incorporated into land-use policy and conservation planning. We overlay spatial distribution models with historical and projected deforestation to show that at least 36% and up to 57% of all Amazonian tree species are likely to qualify as globally threatened under International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List criteria. If confirmed, these results would increase the number of threatened plant species on Earth by 22%. We show that the trends observed in Amazonia apply to trees throughout the tropics, and we predict that most of the world’s >40,000 tropical tree species now qualify as globally threatened. A gap analysis suggests that existing Amazonian protected areas and indigenous territories will protect viable populations of most threatened species if these areas suffer no further degradation, highlighting the key roles that protected areas, indigenous peoples, and improved governance can play in preventing large-scale extinctions in the tropics in this century.

Estimating the global conservation status of more than 15,000 Amazonian tree species


  1. Anonymous said...

    It is unbelievably tragic and sad that the people alive today, especially those who are young, will see the loss of almost everything in their lifetimes.

    I doubt very much that people realize what's truly happening - and what it means to see it all disappear.

    I have no doubts at all that our very survival as a species is at stake, but that's not even the half of it. The life of the planet is dying right before our eyes - by our hand and we are unable to stop ourselves from continuing this ecocidal insanity.

    We're killing what remains - so we can stay alive a little longer, but it's not going to work.

    We have chosen the slow, painful and excruciating path of death instead of self-denial and a chance at saving our species and every other living thing. And we're smart enough to realize what this means, but we are not courageous enough to change.

    So we will die, right along side everything else that we are destroying. Only last night I saw a report (forget where, sorry), that our species will only survive 100 - 200 more years max. I think this is a generous estimate because it failed to account for surface heating (no food will be produced by 2050, only 35 years away).

    There may still be some life on the planet after 2050 struggling to survive, but it won't be many of us and the trend is now excruciatingly obvious. Extinction of all things lies ahead, and quite soon.  


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