The extinction of dozens of Amazon species may be prevented in the next three decades by protecting more forests and reusing cleared land, according to an article in today’s issue of Science.
About 1 percent of the region’s tree-dwelling animals were driven to extinction as of 2008 and that figure may rise dramatically as deforestation spreads in Brazil, Robert Ewers, a senior lecturer at Imperial College in London and the article’s lead author, said in an interview.
Ewers evaluated the region by dividing it blocks of 2,500 square kilometers (965 square miles), and found that at the current rate of deforestation, an average of nine species in each block will be gone by 2050 and 16 more will be too close to extinction to be saved. That may be slowed with improved land-management policies, he said.
“Development has to happen, but development doesn’t have to happen everywhere equally,” Ewers said. “What we can do is maybe try and push to use land better. Instead of clearing land, using it, and then abandoning it, maybe we can keep using that same land.”
Extinction of a species often trails deforestation by years, or even decades, he said. The study focused on the extinction of vertebrate species, animals with backbones.
“In the south and the east of the Amazon we’ve already lost a lot of species,” Ewers said. “Given the decisions that are being made in Brazil, this is a really important time. You start to see that the decisions you make today result in different futures.”
President Dilma Rousseff on June 25 signed a law that reduces the size of three national parks, three national forests and one federally protected area to allow for building dams and reservoir runoff.