More than 50 percent of all tree species in the Amazon Rainforest are under threat of extinction, according to a new study in the latest issue of Science Advances journal. The Amazon is regarded as the world’s most diverse forest.
The report says the only way to prevent the tree species from being wiped out is to better manage the Amazonian reserves and parks, and to give incentive and training to the region’s indigenous tribes to help aid in the endeavor.
The report is based on the findings of 158 researchers from 21 countries, led by Dr Nigel Pitman of the Field Museum in Chicago, and Dr Hans ter Steege of Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands.
University of Leed’s School of Geography Professor Oliver Phillips says, “To put the threat to Amazon diversity in context, this unprecedented analysis shows that for each tree species found in the British Isles there are now up to one hundred and seventy threatened in the Amazon.”
Although Amazon forests have been declining since the 1950’s, scientists still have a poor understanding of how this has impacted populations of individual species.
The study estimates between 36 and 57 percent of Amazon tree species are “being globally threatened under IUCN Red List of Threatened Species criteria”.
Dr. Pittman says, “We aren’t saying that the situation in the Amazon has suddenly gotten worse for tree species. 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.”
He says as the same trends observed in the Amazon apply throughout the tropics, most of the world’s 40,000 tropical tree species face the same risk.
Dr. Hans ter Steege says, “This is good news from the Amazon that you don’t hear enough of. In recent decades Amazon countries have made major strides in expanding parks and strengthening indigenous land rights. And our study shows this has big benefits for biodiversity.”
Talking of training and encouraging the indigenous tribes to protect “their” lands, Professor Phillips says, “This generation still has the power to make a huge difference. Most species can still survive, but only if we protect enough of the Amazon from the forces of deforestation and climate change.”