Gaps in knowledge about the Amazon threaten its conservation – 07/19/2023 – Ciência Fundamental

About 1,000 to 10,000 species are lost each year due to global changes. Among the villains of this accelerated loss of biodiversity are climate change and habitat destruction. But fortunately this impact can be mitigated by strategic conservation planning.

The measures to be taken will depend on prior knowledge of the species that exist in different locations. In other words: in the same way that knowing product prices helps us understand inflation, without understanding the current state of biodiversity it is not possible to monitor how it is changing or what is being lost. This is an essential step in community ecology research.

How to discover the species that live in certain places? In studies involving large regions, such as biomes or entire countries, this information can come from online databases that store standardized inventories of flora or fauna. However, as much as this data is available for many economically rich regions, such as the United States, Europe and Australia, there are still vast areas of the planet whose biodiversity is poorly represented in databases. The Brazilian Amazon, for example, is one of them.

Although recognized as the most biodiverse rainforest in the world, the Amazon rainforest is one of the least known in the Americas. To explain gaps in ecological research in the Amazon, the Synergize Consortium interdisciplinary group of more than 500 scientists, of which I am a member, which investigates how human impact affects biodiversity in the Amazon – analyzed data from almost 8,000 locations inventoried between 2010 and 2020. The results revealed that 40% of areas in the Amazon have a negligible chance of being investigated given current trends. The study was published on Wednesday, 19, in the journal Current Biology.

The size of knowledge gaps varies by environment. Among the areas with less than 10% probability of search, there were 54% of non-flood areas, 27% of aquatic habitats, and about 17% of wetlands. These results reflect the main way of transporting products and people in the Amazon, river transport. Thus, regions accessible by boat tend to present more studies, such as floodplain forests such as floodplains and igapós. On the other hand, non-flooding environments such as those on terra firme remain dry for most of the year, which limits logistics and access.

What else do areas with neglected biodiversity have in common? In general, the chances of a region receiving ecological studies decrease with the distance from research centers (universities, biological museums and research institutes) or even with travel time from large urban centers. The influence of these logistic factors was consistent for investigations involving different organisms such as plants, vertebrate and invertebrate animals. In addition, forest degradation and land tenure were relevant, with fewer studies available in degraded areas and indigenous lands, but more ecological research in conservation units.

In the Brazilian Amazon, 23% of the forests have already been lost and, unless effective measures are taken, another 27% of them could be illegally deforested by 2050. Given the increasingly present environmental changes, it is important to map regions with neglected biodiversity and high risk of environmental changes. Our estimates indicate that, among the least investigated regions (those with less than a 5% chance of receiving ecological surveys), about 18% will also face significant climate changes and habitat degradation by 2050.

It is necessary to act to reveal the biodiversity of these regions before environmental changes advance, especially close to the “arc of deforestation”. This extensive area that extends across the south and east of the Amazon has been heavily impacted by illegal logging and the advance of the agricultural frontier. The presence of more highways and access roads, combined with the difficulties of environmental inspection, facilitates the presence and expansion of predatory activities. Not coincidentally, more intense climate changes are projected for the eastern portion of the Amazon.

It is essential to regionalize data curation through the development of local research programs, in addition to promoting the integration of information with global databases. It is also crucial to involve and value local people in tropical forest research, conservation and monitoring efforts. Among the possible actions are the planning of public policies and investments in inventory and monitoring programs that target areas with neglected biodiversity.

The Brazilian Amazon is a region of vital importance in terms of biodiversity, and the loss of its ecological balance is not a price we should be willing to pay.


Mario Moura is a biologist, visiting professor at the State University of Campinas, and works with biodiversity, ecology and conservation.

The blog Ciência Fundamental is edited by Serrapilheira, a private, non-profit institute lucrative, what promotes science in Brazil. Sign up for the Serrapilheira newsletter to keep up with news from the institute and the blog.

PRESENT LINK: Did you like this text? Subscriber can release five free hits of any link per day. Just click the blue F below.

#Gaps #knowledge #Amazon #threaten #conservation #Ciência #Fundamental

Leave a Comment