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Science Advances, a recently published paper, compiled by a team of 158 researchers from 21 countries, has revealed a worrying scenario for the Amazon rainforests. But rather than considering these findings as sensationalist, they must be looked at as guidelines to save the region from further damage. Here’s a look at the findings of the report, and suggestions from some experts.
(1) A new research conducted over 1,500 forests in the Amazon region of South America suggests that more than half of its 15,000 variety of trees and several species of animals will not survive till 2050. According to a research paper published last week by Science Advances, between 36 to 57 percent of Amazon’s tree species are bound to vanish. In fact, several hundred tree species will have less than 1,000 individuals remaining in the coming years. Significant regions under observation included the Amazon basin and the Guiana Shield.
(2) Researchers suggest that if sustainable development practices are not implemented, the Amazon would easily lose out on 40 percent of its forests by 2050. However, if the levels of forest devastation are controlled, along with preserving the species from habitat loss, the reduction in forest cover could be cut by up to 20 per cent, which still means 20 per cent forest reduction from now.
(3) Based on the observations, the researchers have also derived that not only will the sparsely available species deteriorate in number; even common, commercially significant species-including acai palm (its availability might get reduced by 50%), Brazil nut (by 50% or more) and cacao (by 72%)-won’t be spared. The research paper carried out an in-depth research on the nature of various species, and their territories as well.
(i) The species most vulnerable to extinction lie mostly in Southern or Eastern Amazon.
(ii) A lot of the 10,000 unidentified tree species (which is double the number of identified ones) are more prone to extinction than the identified tree species in the Amazon. This unidentified class of species is referred to by scientists as ‘dark biodiversity’.
(iii) Tropical trees rank among the world’s most threatened species.
(iv) It is a universal law that when a tree falls down, almost the entire habitat around it gets affected-the same holds true for Amazon. The research states that while the primary habitat that surrounds a tree will get directly affected, fragmentation of the habitat population would cause hunting problems for the carnivores, which will directly lead to a reduction in their numbers as well.
(v) According to Bolivian scientist Tim Killeen, trees producing Brazil nuts are endangered, while ‘mahogany is commercially extinct’.
(4) There are various reasons for the destruction of the forests. These include agriculture, mining, dam construction, and logging; in fact, climate change is resulting in more and more droughts and wildfires. Production of beef and extraction of palm oil and soy contributes largely to the deforestation. Overall, it is the never-ending urge for human development that is leading to the widespread deforestation.
(5) In places like Bolivia and Peru, the amount of felling is overwhelming-most of which stays unchecked. According to this report, the average DAILY loss of forests in these areas is equivalent to the size of 4,500 FOOTBALL PITCHES.
Positive indications and solutions:
While there’s a lot to worry about, sustainable development coupled with a positive approach can still revive the future of the Amazon. Let’s have a look at the brighter side of things.
(1) Hans ter Steege, the lead author of this paper, is quite satisfied with the current state of the Amazon. He believes that while economic growth is taking place at the cost of deforestation, things aren’t as bad as their team thought they would be. Still over 80 percent of the forest has not been deforested, and more than 50 per cent lies in some kind of conservation area-either as conservation reserves, or as indigenous territories.
(2) Another positive is that the rate of forest reduction has considerably dropped down from the nineties. Around 1999, Amazon forests were being reduced by 11.6 million square miles every year. Now the annual forest loss is approximately 3.8 million square miles a year, which is a major sign of progress.
(3) 60% of the Amazon rainforests lie in Brazil, and the good news is that the fifth-largest country in the world has reduced its rate of deforestation to a large extent, in the last decade or so.
If Brazil continues to back away from deforestation at the same rate, not only will it check the Amazon’s deforestation levels, it should motivate external economies, given the land and population size of Brazil.