Half of the trees in the Amazon may be faced with extinction, but researchers believe that there could still be a chance to save the rainforest.
In their study – published Friday in the journal Science Advantage – the researchers looked at all Amazonian tree species to better understand the diversity of the largest tropical forest on Earth.
They found that more than 15,000 tree species live in the Amazon, but almost 8,700 of those tree species are at risk of becoming extinct. According to the researchers, more than 40,000 tropical tree species could face the threat of extinction worldwide.
Dr. Nigel Pitman, co-author of the study and a researcher at Duke University’s Center for Tropical Conservation said that the new study offers an estimate of how historical deforestation affected individual tree species in tropical forests.
Although previous studies have also analysed the population dynamics of trees in the Amazon, the new study is the first to use the parameters of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to categorise threatened and endangered species.
The measurements were put into the most frequently used currency: the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, Dr. Pitman said.
Under the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List criteria, about 36 to 57 percent of the tree species in the Amazon would be classified as globally threatened. That being said, researchers say that protected reserves may actually help save the rainforest.
Dr. Hans ter Steege, lead author of the study and a senior research fellow on Amazon tree diversity for the Department of Botany at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, the Netherlands, stated that as long as half of the area is protected, half of the tree species should also be protected.
Dr. ter Steege believes that although about 11 percent of the Amazon has been deforested, more than 80 percent is still intact, so people should focus on that aspect and find solutions to prevent further deforestation.
Both ter Steege and Pitman are of opinion that better management practices for reserve conservation in the Amazon should be taken, if we want to see significant progress. Better documentation of current individual tree species should also be done, ter Steege added.
Pitman and ter Steege said that although that is not rocket science, they do not have the resources to conduct in-depth documentation of individual tree species, because there are way too many species in the Amazon.
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