Still time to save most species in the Brazilian Amazon

Burnt forest in the Amazon. Photo by: Alexander Lees.

Species that live in habitats that are destroyed or become unusable do not go extinct immediately: they tend to phase out through generations.  This is called “extinction debt”, and a study in the journal Science predicts that the Brazilian Amazon may soon be in danger of losing huge numbers of species to the debt collectors.

  • The study found that 80-90% of predicted extinctions in Amazonian birds, amphibians, and mammals has not happened yet, giving an opportunity to restore the destroyed habitats and ensure the future survival of the species
  • Insects, reptiles, fish, plants and fungi were not included in the study because researchers were unable to get enough data on species and distribution, but they face many of the same threats of extinction due to deforestation
  • The Amazon had lost almost 20%, or 720,000 km2 , of her forest by 2008 and would lose even more if deforestation continues at its current pace
  • It is unlikely that by the year 2020 deforestation would have either come to a halt or be reduced to 80%, both of which are optimistic scenarios used in the scientists model, which leads researchers to conclude that the extinction debt will only get larger (around 14% of family groups)
  • Recent decline in deforestation rates have helped provide conservationists with time to develop plans for the future preservation and restoration of the Amazon, hopefully before the species are lost forever
  • Many of the species that may go extinct in the coming years may never have been discovered by scientists

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