Brazil – According to a new study published on Friday in the journal Science Advances, more than half of all tree species in the Amazon (57 percent) are being threatened by deforestation. The study explored and analyzed more than 15,000 tree species which includes cacao plants, which are the source of chocolate, and the Brazil nut.

A study of this magnitude had not been done before, this is one of the first investigation to look at deforestation in the Amazon since 1950s, when researchers had fisrt noted the decline of tree stocks.

The data, which also classified the threatens in species-by-species, evidenced that between 36 percent and 57 percent of the trees are disposed to qualify as being part of the globally threatened species of the Red List of Threatened Species classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Large tree species store and grow more biomass and than small species in the Amazon rainforest. Credit: Roel Brienen/Science Media Centre

As reported by Nigel Pitman, one of the 150 researchers from almost 100 institutions, they “are just offering a new estimate of how tree species have been affected by historical deforestation, and how they’ll be affected by forest loss in the future”. “We aren’t saying that the situation in the Amazon has suddenly gotten worse for tree species,” said the ecologist of the Field Museum of Chicago in a press release on friday.

That being said, a big part of threatened species are growing in sheltered areas and indigenous territories. The researchers claimed that the Amazon is making efforts to extend parks and protected areas, which is a thing they assign a huge importance. Tropical ecologist from Florida International University, Kenneth J. Feeley, said plans had to be done to make sure protections were enforced, because those areas are not completely exempt from human development.

Some parks and reserves in Brasil have no management plans for long term or budgets to make them work. “This is a major problem in conservation. It’s very easy for governments to draw a line on the map and declare an area protected,” “It’s much harder to make that area effectively protected.” said Feeley.

A new computer model of two approaches was constructed after collecting the data. The first is called the “business as usual” model, it reports that probably about 40 percent of the original Amazon forests would disappear  by 2050,  In contrast, another model where governments would make firm preservation controls reduced the number of threatened and destroyed forests by 21 percent. According to the first model, 8,690 trees species must be classified as threatened and the number would reduce to 5,515 according to the second model.

“If we can keep these reserves from suffering degradation, then we can actually protect a substantial part of the diversity in the Amazon,” said the principal author of the paper, Hans ter Steege, from the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands.

Source: New York Times