Fire Earth

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Deforestation: Half of All Amazon Tree Species ‘Face Extinction’

Posted by feww on November 21, 2015


About quarter of Earth’s plant species probably threatened —Report

Amazon, the world’s most diverse forest, is home to more than 15,000 tree species. However, the forest is being rapidly degraded due to deforestation.

Clearing the forest for farming, ranching and human settlements is threatening up to 57% of all tree species in Amazon, which would likely qualify as being globally threatened under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species criteria, say researchers.

The study covers more than 5.5 million km² of forest spanning multiple countries: Brazil (60% of the rainforest) Peru (13%), Colombia (10%), Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

The trends observed in Amazonia also apply to trees throughout the tropics, and they predict that most of the world’s more than 40,000 tropical tree species now qualify as globally threatened, according to the report.

If confirmed, these results would increase the number of threatened plant species on Earth by 22%.

The Jungle

Home to the largest collection of living plants and animal species on the planet, or about one in ten known species, biodiversity of Amazon rainforest is unparalleled.

“The original lowland forests of Amazonia are estimated to have covered 5.74 million km², 11.4% of which had been deforested by 2013. Most of the estimated 3.2 × 10^10 individual trees lost to date were in southern and eastern Amazonia,” according to the report.

Fire-Earth models show Amazonian forests have lost about 14% of their original extent. Most of the lost forest has become pasture for cattle. As of October 2015, the area of forest lost in the Amazon rose to nearly 805,000 km² [estimate does not include regrowth, if any.]

Estimating the global conservation status of more than 15,000 Amazonian tree species: by Hans ter Steege et al.


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.

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Copyright © 2015, The Authors Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license.

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