Danger to Earth lungs

November 22, 2015 8:30 am

 Members
of the Awa Tribe in the Para province of the Brazilian Amazon Jungle
walk along a path cleared by loggers. Photo / Supplied

About half the 15,000 tree species in the Amazon – the world’s most
diverse forest – are threatened by deforestation, an international study
says.
The report lays bare the destruction of an ecosystem often referred to as the lungs of the Earth.
“At
least 36 per cent and up to 57 per cent of all Amazonian tree species
are likely to qualify as globally threatened,” said the study in the
journal Advances, which used criteria from the respected International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Under
a business-as-usual scenario, about 40 per cent of the original Amazon
forest would be destroyed by 2050, the researchers found. But with
stricter conservation measures, they said, that number could be halved.
The
good is that significant populations of endangered trees survive
in protected areas of the Amazon, the researchers said.
Still,
they added, only constant vigilance over valuable trees like the Brazil
nut – 63 per cent of which could otherwise be lost by 2050 – will help
preserve the Amazon’s status as a major carbon sink.

The cacao tree could decline by 50 per cent within 35 years
under a business-as-usual scenario and the acai palm could decline 72
per cent. Already, the prized mahogany tree is considered commercially
extinct.
The report was based on forest surveys across the Amazon
and maps of current and projected deforestation. Researchers from 21
countries contributed.
“Either we stand up and protect these
critical parks and indigenous reserves, or deforestation will erode them
until we see large-scale extinctions,” said lead author Hans ter Steege
of Naturalis Biodiversity Centre in the Netherlands.

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