Behavior Change
Study:
Deforestation Threatens Majority of Amazon Tree Species

At least 36 percent and up to 57 percent of the the tree species in the Amazon Rainforest should qualify as threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, the most widely recognized authority on threats to species conservation, according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances, as reported by The New York Times.

Researchers studied the status of more than 15,000 Amazonian tree species, including the Brazil nut and the plants that produce cacao and açaí palm, and compared maps of projected deforestation with data collected in the forest. The findings suggest that the number of globally threatened plant species could increase by about 22 percent, and globally threatened tree species by 36 percent.

Most of the more than 150 researchers from nearly 100 institutions listed as authors of the paper trekked into the Amazon to measure tree diameters and collect leaves, branches, flowers and fruits. The scientists recorded information from 1,485 plots of forest, each about two acres, The Times reports.

Using the collected data, the researchers constructed a computer model to analyze it under two scenarios. The “business as usual” model estimated that by 2050, about 40 percent of the original Amazon forests would disappear. The scenario in which governments enacted stronger preservation regulations estimated that 21 percent of the forest would be destroyed by 2050.

Under the “business as usual” model, 8,690 of today’s tree species should be classified as threatened, and under the second model, 5,515 should be, the team reported, according to the Times.

Fortunately, deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon, which represents about 60 percent of the total Amazon area, have decreased by about 75 percent since 2005, the researchers said. In 2014, Brazil [created](/news_and_views/next_economy/sustainable_brands /brazil_releases_forest_reference_emission_level_asses) the first Forest Reference Emission Level (FREL), a technical assessment that will measure the country’s reductions in global warming emissions from deforestation.

Deforestation is responsible for an estimated 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and reducing deforestation emissions is a central part of mitigating climate change, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

In July, at a bilateral meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff committed Brazil to an agreement for both countries to obtain up to 20 percent of their electricity from renewable power by 2030. In an effort to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change, Brazil also committed to restoring close to 30 million acres (12 million hectares) of forest — an area the size of Pennsylvania.

On the business anti-deforestation front, Danone, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble and Unilever continue to lead the corporate sector in making and living up to zero-deforestation commitments, but many firms have yet to make public sustainability commitments, according to a new ranking by the Global Canopy Programme.

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