Half of Amazon’s tree species are on the brink of extinction, a recent study published in the journal Science Advances has shown.
Research was conducted by an international team comprising 158 experts, from 21 countries. Initially, the scientists, led by Hans ter Steege, tropical ecologist at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands, focused on analyzing data collected from various forest surveys undertaken across the Amazon rainforest.
Afterwards, this information was correlated with maps illustrating current levels of deforestation, as well as future ones anticipated following various upcoming projects.
This way, it was possible to determine exactly how many trees of each species had been lost so far, and which areas were the most severely affected.
It was discovered that between 36% and 57% of the approximately 15,000 Amazon tree species, such as the ones which produce mahogany and Brazil nuts, will be threatened with extinction, if deforestation continues unabated.
More precisely, this would raise the total number of endangered plant species by up to 22%, given that about 8,690 Amazon rainforest species might eventually be included on the Red List of Threatened Species, as highlighted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
While experts don’t claim that this is actually a recent occurrence, and admit that recent forest loss has been less severe, they do insist that it is necessary to be fully conscious and updated regarding the impact historical deforestation has had so far, in order to curb the effects of future man-made activities.
It’s essential to have accurate estimations of the destruction that has been incurred already on the Amazon rainforest ecosystem, ever since the 1950’s, because otherwise this alarming trend will remain unchecked.
Study authors have even proposed potential solutions for limiting this damage, and for ensuring that the unparalleled biodiversity encountered in this region isn’t compromised beyond repair.
They believe responsibility for carrying out conservation efforts lies especially with the nations that border the Amazon forest: Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, the French Guyana and Suriname.
It is the duty of leaders from these states to introduce laws which will place endangered forest areas under protection, as national parks.
This legislation should be imposed immediately, since overpopulation might result in extra pressure to extend deforestation so as to make more room for houses, ranches, crop fields and grazing grounds.
Moreover, dam construction works and mining should be more carefully regulated, to ensure that more trees are saved, and indigenous populations aren’t displaced from their lands.
Nowadays, such regions where conservation efforts are already in place occupy around 52.2 % of the Amazon drainage basin, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
More exactly, protective measures should be taken even in more remote locations, where the activity of loggers, farmers and prospectors isn’t as carefully monitored as it should be, leading to over-exploitation and exceptional devastation.
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