Monday, August 14, 2017

COTW: Brazil's Arc of Deforestation

This satelite imagery shows the massive extent of tree cover loss in the Amazon Basin along an arc that extends from the Amazon River's estuary in the northeast to the Bolivian border in the south:

magenta: tree loss, courtesy Global Forest Watch
A recent comprehensive study of Amazon's tree loss published in Science Advances estimates that more than half of the tree species could qualify for ICUN's Red List as threatened.  These species include some iconic ones such as the brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) and wild cacao (Theobroma cacao).  By 2013 Amazonia which once extended over six million square kilometers lost 12% of its tree cover.  Along the arc of deforestation, clearances for cattle ranching pose the greatest threat, followed by logging and slash and burn agriculture near settlements.  Manioc, a staple of the local diet, requires new patches of clear ground every year.

Obviously the forests provide habitat for a myriad of creatures, as well as a vital carbon sink for Earth.  Fortunately nearly 50% of the Amazon is under some form of protection, but enforcing the rules in a such a wild region is difficult and irregular.  Recently an expedition to find a "lost" monkey species, the bald-faced Vanzolini saki [photo], last collected in 1936, was rediscovered on the banks of the Rio Eiru near the arc of deforestation.  The researchers also fond plenty of evidence of habitat destruction caused by logging and agricultural clearances.

credit: C. Selby