Friday, 6 March 2015

A third of the Amazon could lose 44% of species in just 15 years

New research has shown that parts of the Amazon could lose between 31% and 44% of major species by 2030, just 15 years away. The research shows that as regions of the Amazon reach a threshold for forest loss the number of species quickly crash. A third of the Amazon is expected to reach or exceed that threshold by 2030.

As the Amazon is clear-felled for industries such as agriculture and timber species are obviously lost. To reduce the impact governments such as Brazil require operators to keep at least 80% forest cover but this is rarely enforced and often more forest is felled.

What the researchers from the University of Cambridge found was that under ‘normal’ deforestation between 1 and 2 major species groups are wiped out for every 10% of forest cover that is cleared in an area. However once forest cover falls to 43% then between 8 and 10 major species is lost for every 10% cleared.

The researchers are calling on Brazil and others to make changes to their forest management laws. Rather than requiring farms to maintain 80% of cover on individual farms they want the amount of forest cover to be set at a minimum of 50% over a landscape level and for it to be enforced.

Landscape level forest cover protection at 50% should ensure that the 43$ threshold is not breached and entire regions of the Amazon losing substantial amounts of biodiversity and major species.

“These results support the need for a major shift in the scale at which environmental legislation is applied in Brazil and the tropics,” said Dr Jose Manuel Ochoa-Quintero, from Cambridge University’s Department of Zoology, who led the study, published recently in the journal Conservation Biology.

“We need to move from thinking in terms of compliance at a farm scale to compliance at a landscape scale if we are to save as many species as we can from extinction,” he said.

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