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Biodiversity contributes to the ecological and climatic stability of the Amazon Basin1,2, but is increasingly threatened by deforestation and fire3,4. Here we quantify these impacts over the past two decades using remote-sensing estimates of fire and deforestation and comprehensive range estimates of 11,514 plant species and 3,079 vertebrate species in the Amazon. Deforestation has led to large amounts of habitat loss, and fires further exacerbate this already substantial impact on Amazonian biodiversity. Since 2001, 103,079–189,755 km² of Amazon rainforest has been impacted by fires, potentially impacting the ranges of 77.3–85.2% of species that are listed as threatened in this region⁵. The impacts of fire on the ranges of species in Amazonia could be as high as 64%, and greater impacts are typically associated with species that have restricted ranges. We find close associations between forest policy, fire-impacted forest area and their potential impacts on biodiversity. In Brazil, forest policies that were initiated in the mid-2000s corresponded to reduced rates of burning. However, relaxed enforcement of these policies in 2019 has seemingly begun to reverse this trend: approximately 4,253–10,343 km² of forest has been impacted by fire, leading to some of the most severe potential impacts on biodiversity since 2009. These results highlight the critical role of policy enforcement in the preservation of biodiversity in the Amazon.
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516 | Nature | Vol 597 | 23 September 2021
How deregulation, drought and increasing
fire impact Amazonian biodiversity
Xiao Feng1,23 ✉, Cory Merow2,23, Zhihua Liu3,23, Daniel S. Park4,5,23, Patrick R. Roehrdanz6,23,
Brian Maitner2,23, Erica A. Newman7,8,23, Brad L. Boyle7,9 , Aaron Lien8,1 0, Joseph R. Burger7,8,11,
Mathias M. Pires12, Paulo M. Brando13,14,15, Mark B. Bush16, Crystal N. H. McMichael17,
Danilo M. Neves18, Efthymios I. Nikolopoulos19, Scott R. Saleska7, Lee Hannah6,
David D. Breshears10, Tom P. Evans20, José R. Soto10, Kacey C. Ernst21 & Brian J. Enquist7,2 2,23
Biodiversity contributes to the ecological and climatic stability of the Amazon Basin1,2,
but is increasingly threatened by deforestation and re3,4. Here we quantify these
impacts over the past two decades using remote-sensing estimates of re and
deforestation and comprehensive range estimates of 11,514 plant species and 3,079
vertebrate species in the Amazon. Deforestation has led to large amounts of habitat
loss, andres further exacerbate this already substantial impact on Amazonian
biodiversity. Since 2001, 103,079–189,755 km2 of Amazon rainforest has been
impacted by res, potentially impacting the ranges of 77.3–85.2% of species that are
listed as threatened in this region5. The impacts of re on the ranges of species in
Amazonia could be as high as 64%, and greater impacts are typically associated with
species that have restricted ranges. We nd close associations between forest policy,
re-impacted forest area and their potential impacts on biodiversity. In Brazil, forest
policies that were initiated in the mid-2000s corresponded to reduced rates of
burning. However, relaxed enforcement of these policies in 2019 has seemingly begun
to reverse this trend: approximately 4,253–10,343 km2 of forest has been impacted by
re, leading to some of the most severe potential impacts on biodiversity since 2009.
These results highlight the critical role of policy enforcement in the preservation of
biodiversity in the Amazon.
The Amazon Basin
supports around 40% of the world’s remaining
tropical forests7 and has a vital role in regulating the Earth’s climate8.
Amazonia contains 10% of all known species
and it has been estimated
that 1,000 tree species can be found in a single square kilometre of the
. Such high biodiversity also enhances ecosystem resilience
through functional diversity
and influencing rates of secondary forest
, and has probably enabled Amazonia to remain relatively sta
ble and to buffer ecosystem functioning in the face of climate change
However, continued degradation and loss of forest cover and biodiver-
sity therein could undermine ecosystem resilience and hasten an irre-
versible tipping point
. Indeed, a loss of 20–25% of Amazonian forests
could precipitate a rapid transition to savannah-like formations13,14.
Since the 1960s, approximately 20% of Amazonian forest cover has
been lost as a result of deforestation and fires15. Forest loss is predicted
to reach 21–40% by 2050, and such habitat loss will have large impacts
on Amazonian biodiversity16,17. In conjunction with ongoing habitat loss
due to deforestation, increasing fires in the Amazon potentially pose
another great threat to biodiversity
: because Amazonian species have
largely evolved in the absence of fire, they generally lack adaptations to
fire-related damage (ref. 18 and references therein). Fires associated with
deforestation generally lead to a total loss of forest habitat3, and the burn-
ing of felled vegetation impairs regeneration and facilitates the invasion
of exotic grasses19. Forest fires also have largely negative impacts on the
habitats and long-term fitness of species due to habitat degradation
Repeated burning can result in considerable species loss and turnover
Burning can also initiate a series of positive feedbacks, including increases
in dry fuel loads and midday temperatures, desiccation of biomass and
flammability of native forests at the edges of clearings25.
Fires in the Amazon are collectively influenced by climate, deforesta-
tion, forest fragmentation, selective logging and forest policies
Received: 22 November 2019
Accepted: 4 August 2021
Published online: 1 September 2021
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1Department of Geography, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA. 2Eversource Energy Center and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA.
3CAS Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Management, Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang, China. 4Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West
Lafayette, IN, USA. 5Purdue Center for Plant Biology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA. 6The Moore Center for Science, Conservation International, Arlington, VA, USA. 7Department of
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA. 8Arizona Institutes for Resilience, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA. 9Hardner & Gullison Associates, Amherst, NH, USA.
10School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA. 11Department of Biology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA. 12Departamento de Biologia Animal,
Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Campinas, Brazil. 13Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA, USA. 14Woodwell Climate Research Center, Falmouth, MA,
USA. 15Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (IPAM), Brasilia, Brazil. 16Insitute for Global Ecology, Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL, USA. 17Department of Ecosystem and
Landscape Dynamics, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 18Institute of Biological Sciences, Federal University of Minas Gerais,
Belo Horizonte, Brazil. 19Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering, Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL, USA. 20School of Geography, Development and Environment, University of
Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA. 21Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA. 22The Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM, USA. 23These
authors contributed equally: Xiao Feng, Cory Merow, Zhihua Liu, Daniel S. Park, Patrick R. Roehrdanz, Brian Maitner, Erica A. Newman, Brian J. Enquist. e-mail:
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... habitat loss, invasive species) (Bergstrom et al., 2021), environmental disturbances (e.g. extreme weather, fire) (Feng et al., 2021;Maxwell et al., 2019) and species' interactions (Bartley et al., 2019). ...
... More frequent extreme events, such as fire and drought, are likely to have flow-on effects to important ecological resources for species of concern (Maxwell et al., 2019). For example, the compounding effects of fire, drought and habitat loss have affected more than three quarters of Amazonian plant and vertebrate animal species in the last 20 years (Feng et al., 2021). Such disturbances can undermine conservation by cancelling out benefits gained by the actions of land managers . ...
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Ecosystem management in the face of global change requires understanding how co‐occurring threats affect species and communities. Such an understanding allows for effective management strategies to be identified and implemented. An important component of this is differentiating between factors that are within (e.g., invasive predators) or outside (e.g., drought, large wildfires) of a local manager's control. In the global biodiversity hotspot of south‐western Australia, small and medium‐sized mammal species are severely affected by anthropogenic threats and environmental disturbances, including invasive predators, fire, and declining rainfall. However, the relative importance of different drivers has not been quantified. We used data from a long‐term monitoring program to fit Bayesian state‐space models that estimated spatial and temporal changes in the relative abundance of four threatened mammal species: the woylie (Bettongia penicillata), chuditch (Dasyurus geoffroii), koomal (Trichosurus vulpecula) and quenda (Isoodon fusciventor). We then use Bayesian structural equation modelling to identify the direct and indirect drivers of population changes, and scenario analysis to forecast population responses to future environmental change. We found that habitat loss or conversion and reduced primary productivity (caused by rainfall declines) had greater effects on species’ spatial and temporal population change than the range of fire and invasive predator (the red fox Vulpes vulpes) management actions observed in the study area. Scenario analysis revealed that a greater extent of severe fire and further rainfall declines predicted under climate change, operating in concert are likely to further reduce the abundance of these species, but may be mitigated partially by invasive predator control. Considering both historical and future drivers of population change is necessary to identify the factors that risk species recovery. Given that both anthropogenic pressures and environmental disturbances can undermine conservation efforts, managers must consider how the relative benefit of conservation actions will be shaped by ongoing global change.
... Brazil is the most biologically diverse country in the world, the second in terms of species endemism, and one of the world's 17 mega diverse countries -comprising 70% of the world's catalogued animal and plant species - (BIOFIN, 2021;SiBBr, 2021). Especially, the Amazon ecosystems host a large proportion of global biodiversity (Barlow et al., 2007;Cardoso et al., 2017;Feng et al., 2021), which makes them a conservation priority in order to maintain all of their environmental functions and services. The Amazon regulates water (Arraut et al., 2012;Zemp et al., 2014;Casagrande et al., 2021), energy (Longo et al., 2020;Stark et al., 2020), and carbon (Brienen et al., 2015;Covey et al., 2021;Gatti et al., 2021) cycling. ...
Das Amazonasgebiet hat in den letzten Jahrzehnten eine Intensivierung der menschlichen Aktivitäten erfahren, die in Verbindung mit häufigen schweren Dürren die Umwelt anfälliger für Brände gemacht hat. In dieser Dissertation wurden Fernerkundungsdaten analysiert, um die räumlich-zeitliche Verteilung der Feuer in den letzten 20 Jahren im brasilianischen Amazonasgebiet umfassend zu untersuchen und die verschiedenen Brandursachen zu entschlüsseln. (I) Die erste Forschungsarbeit wertete die Verteilung der verbrannten Fläche aus und zeigte, dass die meisten Brände auf bewirtschafteten Weiden und in den immergrünen Tropenwäldern auftraten, was die Behauptung stützt, dass ihr Auftreten stark auf anthropogene Landnutzungsänderungen reagiert. Die Ergebnisse zeigten auch, dass weder Entwaldung noch Walddegradierung mit Waldbränden korrelierte, wohl aber Feuer, die auf Weiden oder Ackerflächen gelegt wurden und in den angrenzenden Wald übergesprungen sind. (II) Die zweite Forschungsarbeit analysierte einzelne Brände, die durch den auf komplexen Netzwerken basierenden FireTracks-Algorithmus identifiziert wurden. Der Algorithmus wurde verwendet, um Feuerregime für sechs verschiedene Landnutzungsklassen zu ermitteln. Die integrierte Größe, Dauer, Intensität und Ausbreitungsrate dieser räumlich-zeitlichen Brandcluster in den verschiedenen Landnutzungstypen zeigte auf, wie seltene Waldbrände, die natürlicherweise nicht in immergrünen tropischen Wäldern vorkommen, sich zu einem Feuerregime entwickelten, das für Savannenbrände typisch ist. (III) Die dritte Forschungsarbeit analysierte extreme, d. h. die intensivsten Einzelfeuer in immergrünen tropischen Wäldern, und zeigte deren großen Anteil an der insgesamt verbrannten Waldfläche. Während der globale Klimawandel das Potenzial hat, die Trockenheit zu verstärken, sind die anthropogenen Ursachen der Waldzerstörung die Zündquellen, die die Verteilung extremer Brände in den empfindlichen tropischen Wäldern bestimmen.
... This biome is suffering from climate change and a formidable human impact causing large-scale deforestation and fires. Between 2019 and 2021, approximately 4253-10343 km 2 of Brazilian Amazonian forest have been affected by fire, leading to a severe reduction in biodiversity [13]. Yeast biodiversity from Brazilian Amazonian biomes is only beginning to be explored, and most of the work done in the region was focused on the search of new non-conventional yeasts for bioethanol production [3,7,14]. ...
Four isolates of Spathaspora species were recovered from rotting wood collected in two Brazilian Amazonian biomes. The isolates produced unconjugated allantoid asci with a single elongated ascospore with curved ends. Sequence analysis of the ITS-5.8S region and the D1/D2 domains of the large subunit rRNA gene showed that the isolates represent two different novel Spathaspora species, phylogenetically related to Sp. boniae. Two isolates were obtained from rotting wood collected in two different sites of the Amazonian forest in the state of Pará. The name Spathaspora brunopereirae sp. nov. is proposed to accommodate these isolates. The holotype of Spathaspora brunopereirae sp. nov. is CBS 16119T (MycoBank MB846672). The other two isolates were obtained from a region of transition between the Amazonian forest and the Cerrado ecosystem in the state of Tocantins. The name Spathaspora domphillipsii sp. nov. is proposed for this novel species. The holotype of Spathaspora domphillipsii sp. nov. is CBS 14229T (MycoBank MB846697). Both species are able to convert d-xylose into ethanol and xylitol, a trait with biotechnological applications.
... Ceci est dû d'abord à la déforestation, mais aussi au fait que, composée de forêts anciennes, elle a une capacité plus faible à absorber du CO2 par la croissance de la végétation, celle-ci étant déjà à son apogée en termes de densité. Il est possible aussi que des changements du climat local, liés autant à la déforestation qu'aux changements globaux, induisent une mortalité plus grande des arbres de la forêt amazonienne (par exemple du fait de vents violents qui les déracinent, ou d'épisodes de sécheresse plus nombreux qui les rendent vulnérables), déclenchant en conséquence de nouvelles émissions de CO2.68 Les questions d'émissions de carbone ou de possibilité d'un basculement de l'écosystème accaparent une grande partie de l'attention des scientifiques et de l'opinion publique, mais il convient aussi de souligner que la déforestation porte atteinte au gigantesque réservoir de biodiversité que représente l'Amazonie(Feng et al., 2021), et ce de deux manières. En premier lieu, chaque hectare déforesté recèle des organismes uniques qui sont détruits irrémédiablement avant d'avoir été inventoriés. ...
The unexpected fall of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon in 2022 has shown that deforestation phenomena are complex and that for many observers it is difficult to find their way in statistics and geospatial databases that are produced using different methodologies and distinct definitions of what deforestation is and considering in diverging ways various types of environmental damages. In this context, this paper attempts to replace recent figures in a broader context spatially (considering the whole Amazon region beyond Brazil), temporally (looking at the phenomena since the 1980s) and thematically (presenting several sources of data). To do so, we first present the data that are available to the public about deforestation, distinguishing their (sometimes apparently contradictory) characteristics and underlining the Amazon’s inherent ecological and geographical complexity. In a second part, we describe the history of deforestation since 1985, first at the level of the whole basin (or pan-Amazonia) and then focusing on the Brazilian Amazon. Last, as to complete our panorama of the question of deforestation, we present quickly the causes of deforestation and the principal policies of the governments to face it, as well as the consequences of deforestation at the local, regional and global scales. Full text on
... This legal precedent was grounded in decades of scholarship (106,107), and similar laws have been codified in other countries (98,108). "Earth system law" provides a complementary approach for addressing gaps in governance that arise from improper deregulation and dispersed regulatory architecture across institutions and geographic regions (25,109). These legal tools can be designed to impose criminal penalties of heavy fines and imprisonment to criminalize activities that wantonly and substantially damage or destroy Amazonian ecosystems or that harm the health and well-being of Amazonian species (110,111). ...
In this Review, we compare rates of anthropogenic and natural environmental changes in the Amazon and South America and in the larger Earth system. We focus on deforestation and carbon cycles because of their critical roles on the Amazon and Earth systems. We found that rates of anthropogenic processes that affect Amazonian ecosystems are up to hundreds to thousands of times faster than other natural climatic and geological phenomena. These anthropogenic changes reach the scale of millions of square kilometers within just decades to centuries, as compared with millions to tens of millions of years for evolutionary, climatic, and geological processes.
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Emissions from wildfires worsen air quality and can adversely impact human health. This study utilized the fire inventory from NCAR (FINN) as wildfire emissions, and performed air quality modeling of April–October 2012, 2013, and 2014 using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency CMAQ model under two cases: with and without wildfire emissions. This study then assessed the health impacts and economic values attributable to PM2.5 from fires. Results indicated that wildfires could lead annually to 4000 cases of premature mortality in the U.S., corresponding to $36 billion losses. Regions with high concentrations of fire-induced PM2.5 were in the west (e.g., Idaho, Montana, and northern California) and Southeast (e.g., Alabama, Georgia). Metropolitan areas located near fire sources, exhibited large health burdens, such as Los Angeles (119 premature deaths, corresponding to $1.07 billion), Atlanta (76, $0.69 billion), and Houston (65, $0.58 billion). Regions in the downwind of western fires, although experiencing relatively low values of fire-induced PM2.5, showed notable health burdens due to their large population, such as metropolitan areas of New York (86, $0.78 billion), Chicago (60, $0.54 billion), and Pittsburgh (32, $0.29 billion). Results suggest that impacts from wildfires are substantial, and to mitigate these impacts, better forest management and more resilient infrastructure would be needed.
The aim of this chapter is to reflect on the problem of the tragedy of the commons and the side effects of a utilitarian approach toward environmental and social justice. Thus, we will analyze how “the tragedy of commons” is affecting forests, cities, and, ultimately, the dignity of the people living in the Global North and South. First, we focus on the environmental tragedy happening in the Amazon Rainforest. Second, we analyze the problem of drought in California and the consequent tragedy of widespread wildfires. Third, we address the problem of the out-of-fashion waste in Accra, Ghana, before finally presenting the case of Europe’s dependence on energy, which has been brought to light by the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. In its conclusion, this paper will reflect on Ostrom’s principles of Governing the Commons and the legacy that is being built by the Economy of Francesco in response to Pope Francis’ call to action.
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In this paper we investigate the spatial patterns and features of meteorological droughts in Europe using concepts and methods derived from complex network theory. Using Event Synchronization analysis, we uncover robust meteorological drought continental networks based on the co-occurrence of these events at different locations within a season from 1981 to 2020 and compare the results for four accumulation periods of rainfall. Each continental network is then further examined to unveil regional clusters which are characterized in terms of droughts’ geographical propagation and source-sink systems. While introducing new methodologies in general climate networks reconstruction from raw data, our approach brings out key aspects concerning drought spatial dynamics, which could potentially support droughts’ forecast.
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General Circulation and Earth System Models are the most advanced tools for investigating climate responses to future scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions, playing the role of projecting the climate throughout the century. Nevertheless, climate projections are model-dependent and may show systematic biases, requiring a bias correction for any further application. Here, we provide a dataset based on an ensemble of 19 bias-corrected CMIP6 climate models projections for the Brazilian territory based on the SSP2-4.5 and SSP5-8.5 scenarios. We used the Quantile Delta Mapping approach to bias-correct daily time-series of precipitation, maximum and minimum temperature, solar net radiation, near-surface wind speed, and relative humidity. the bias-corrected dataset is available for both historical (1980-2013) and future (2015-2100) simulations at a 0.25° × 0.25° spatial resolution. Besides the gridded product, we provide area-averaged projections for 735 catchments included in the Catchments Attributes for Brazil (CABra) dataset. The dataset provides important variables commonly used in environmental and hydroclimatological studies, paving the way for the development of high-quality research on climate change impacts in Brazil.
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Conflicts between forest conservation and socio-economic development in the Brazilian Legal Amazon (BLA) have persisted for years but the effects of Indigenous territory (ITs) and protected area (PAs) status on deforestation there remain unclear. To address this issue, we analysed time-series satellite images and qualified annual forest area in the BLA under different governance and management regimes. Between 2000 and 2021, areas classified as ITs or PAs increased to cover 52% of forested areas in the BLA while accounting for only 5% of net forest loss and 12% of gross forest loss. In the years (2003–2021) after establishment, gross forest loss fell 48% in PAs subject to ‘strict protection’ and 11% in PAs subject to ‘sustainable use’. However, from 2018 to 2021 the percentage rate of annual gross forest loss in ITs/PAs was twice that of non-designated areas. Our findings reveal the vital role of, and substantial progress achieved by, ITs and PAs in Amazonian forest conservation as well as the dangers of recent weakening of Brazil’s forest policies. The Brazilian Legal Amazon (BLA) has Earth’s largest tropical rainforest and a history of tension around its fate. Between 2001 and 2018, this study finds that Indigenous territories and protected areas in the BLA have expanded and reduced deforestation markedly, with some gains eroded in recent areas.
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paragraph To meet the ambitious objectives of biodiversity and climate conventions, countries and the international community require clarity on how these objectives can be operationalized spatially, and multiple targets be pursued concurrently ¹ . To support governments and political conventions, spatial guidance is needed to identify which areas should be managed for conservation to generate the greatest synergies between biodiversity and nature’s contribution to people (NCP). Here we present results from a joint optimization that maximizes improvements in species conservation status, carbon retention and water provisioning and rank terrestrial conservation priorities globally. We found that, selecting the top-ranked 30% (respectively 50%) of areas would conserve 62.4% (86.8%) of the estimated total carbon stock and 67.8% (90.7%) of all clean water provisioning, in addition to improving the conservation status for 69.7% (83.8%) of all species considered. If priority was given to biodiversity only, managing 30% of optimally located land area for conservation may be sufficient to improve the conservation status of 86.3% of plant and vertebrate species on Earth. Our results provide a global baseline on where land could be managed for conservation. We discuss how such a spatial prioritisation framework can support the implementation of the biodiversity and climate conventions.
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Between 10,000 and 600,000 species of mammal virus are estimated to have the potential to spread in human populations, but the vast majority are currently circulating in wildlife, largely undescribed and undetected by disease outbreak surveillance [1,2,3]. In addition, changing climate and land use drive geographic range shifts in wildlife, producing novel species assemblages and opportunities for viral sharing between previously isolated species [4,5]. In some cases, this will inevitably facilitate spillover into humans [6,7] - a possible mechanistic link between global environmental change and emerging zoonotic disease [8]. Here, we map potential hotspots of viral sharing, using a phylogeographic model of the mammal-virus network, and projections of geographic range shifts for 3,870 mammal species under climate change and land use scenarios for the year 2070. Shifting mammal species are predicted to aggregate at high elevations, in biodiversity hotspots, and in areas of high human population density in Asia and Africa, sharing novel viruses between 3,000 and 13,000 times. Counter to expectations, holding warming under 2 C within the century does not reduce new viral sharing, due to greater range expansions - highlighting the need to invest in surveillance even in a low-warming future. Most projected viral sharing is driven by diverse hyperreservoirs (rodents and bats) and large-bodied predators (carnivores). Because of their unique dispersal capacity, bats account for the majority of novel viral sharing, and are likely to share viruses along evolutionary pathways that could facilitate future emergence in humans. Our findings highlight the urgent need to pair viral surveillance and discovery efforts with biodiversity surveys tracking range shifts, especially in tropical countries that harbor the most emerging zoonoses.
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Global patterns of species and evolutionary diversity in plants are primarily determined by a temperature gradient, but precipitation gradients may be more important within the tropics, where plant species richness is positively associated with the amount of rainfall. The impact of precipitation on the distribution of evolutionary diversity, however, is largely unexplored. Here we detail how evolutionary diversity varies along precipitation gradients by bringing together a comprehensive database on the composition of angiosperm tree communities across lowland tropical South America (2,025 inventories from wet to arid biomes), and a new, large-scale phylogenetic hypothesis for the genera that occur in these ecosystems. We find a marked reduction in the evolutionary diversity of communities at low precipitation. However, unlike species richness, evolutionary diversity does not continually increase with rainfall. Rather, our results show that the greatest evolutionary diversity is found in intermediate precipitation regimes, and that there is a decline in evolutionary diversity above 1,490 mm of mean annual rainfall. If conservation is to prioritise evolutionary diversity, areas of intermediate precipitation that are found in the South American ‘arc of deforestation’, but which have been neglected in the design of protected area networks in the tropics, merit increased conservation attention.
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Wildfires, exacerbated by extreme weather events and land use, threaten to change the Amazon from a net carbon sink to a net carbon source. Here, we develop and apply a coupled ecosystem-fire model to quantify how greenhouse gas–driven drying and warming would affect wildfires and associated CO 2 emissions in the southern Brazilian Amazon. Regional climate projections suggest that Amazon fire regimes will intensify under both low- and high-emission scenarios. Our results indicate that projected climatic changes will double the area burned by wildfires, affecting up to 16% of the region’s forests by 2050. Although these fires could emit as much as 17.0 Pg of CO 2 equivalent to the atmosphere, avoiding new deforestation could cut total net fire emissions in half and help prevent fires from escaping into protected areas and indigenous lands. Aggressive efforts to eliminate ignition sources and suppress wildfires will be critical to conserve southern Amazon forests.
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A key feature of life’s diversity is that some species are common but many more are rare. Nonetheless, at global scales, we do not know what fraction of biodiversity consists of rare species. Here, we present the largest compilation of global plant diversity to quantify the fraction of Earth’s plant biodiversity that are rare. A large fraction, ~36.5% of Earth’s ~435,000 plant species, are exceedingly rare. Sampling biases and prominent models, such as neutral theory and the k-niche model, cannot account for the observed prevalence of rarity. Our results indicate that (i) climatically more stable regions have harbored rare species and hence a large fraction of Earth’s plant species via reduced extinction risk but that (ii) climate change and human land use are now disproportionately impacting rare species. Estimates of global species abundance distributions have important implications for risk assessments and conservation planning in this era of rapid global change.
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This article clarifies the different types of fire in the Amazon, their different drivers and the positive feedbacks that can lead to more fires in the region. It then explores evidence regarding the peak in active fire detections in August 2019, showing that these were linked to the highest levels of deforestation since 2008. Finally, we examine the solutions needed to reduce the prevalence of uncontrolled or illegal fire in the Brazilian Amazon.
The Amazon forest’s main protection against fire is its capacity to create a moist understory microclimate. Roads, deforestation, droughts, and climate change have made this natural firebreak less effective. The southern Amazon, in particular, has become more flammable and vulnerable to wildfires during recent droughts. The drought of 1997/98 first showed that fires could escape from agricultural fields and burn standing primary forests that were once considered impenetrable to fire. The spread of forest fires during other 21st-century droughts suggests that this pattern may well be the new normal. With the landscape becoming more flammable, reducing sources of ignition and the negative effects of deforestation is crucial for avoiding severe degradation of Amazon forests. Unfortunately, recent increases in deforestation suggest that Brazil is moving in the opposite direction. Keeping pace with the rapid changes in the region’s fire regimes would require innovation; cooperation across political boundaries; and interagency communication on a scale never seen before. While Brazil’s past success in reducing deforestation suggests that it could be an effective leader in this regard, its sluggish response to the 2019 fires tells quite a different story. But the fact remains that the future of the Amazon depends on decisive action now.
Since his inauguration on January 1, 2019, Jair Bolsonaro, a declared right-wing candidate nicknamed “Tropical Trump,” has introduced measures to reduce environmental restrictions on livestock farming, the main greenhouse gas (GHG) producing sector in Brazil that is responsible for most of the deforestation in the country. This dangerous relationship between politics and livestock farming in Brazil is detrimental to environmental conservation. Politicians are introducing measures that facilitate the expansion of this type of farming, which in turn provides inputs for the food industry, i.e. agribusiness, which in turn finances politics, thus producing a dangerous cycle in forest conservation.