Saturday, November 21, 2015

Half of Amazonian tree species threatened (study)

About half of all tree species in the Amazon, the world's most diverse forest, may be at risk for extinction, according to a new study published Friday.

Forest cover in the Amazon has been declining since the 1950s, but scientists still have a poor understanding of how this has affected populations of individual species.

The new study, published in the U.S. journal Science Advances, compared data from forest surveys across the Amazon with maps of current and projected deforestation to estimate how many tree species have been lost, and where.

It found that 36 to 57 percent of the Amazon's estimated 15,000 tree species likely qualify as globally threatened using the criteria of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, the most commonly used yardstick for species conservation status.

"We aren't saying that the situation in the Amazon has suddenly gotten worse for tree species," said Nigel Pitman of The Field Museum in Chicago, who led the study with Hans ter Steege of Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands.

"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," Pitman said.

Because the same trends observed in Amazonia apply throughout the tropics, the researchers argued that most of the world's more than 40,000 tropical tree species likely qualify as globally threatened.

Fortunately, protected areas and indigenous territories now cover over half of the Amazon Basin, and contain sizable populations of most threatened tree species, the study said, adding that those areas, if properly managed, will protect most of the threatened species.

"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," said ter Steege. "This is good news from the Amazon that you don't hear enough of." 

   Xinhua -  

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