Do not disturb

30 June 2016

Published in Nature: Disturbing forests kills off just as many plants and animals as chopping them down, according to a study of 2,000 species from the Brazilian Amazon.

Amazon basin forest north of Manaus, Brazil
Image by Phil P. Harris, published under CC BY-SA 2.5

The results were published by an international team including from the University of Canberra and the Victorian Government.

The concern is that current efforts mainly focus on deforestation. Brazil’s Forest Code, for example, legally only requires Amazonian landowners to maintain 80% of their forest cover. The law does not address forest disturbance.

The study calls for urgent regional-scale interventions that go beyond the maintenance of forest cover to protect the biodiversity of the world’s remaining tropical forests.

As an accompanying commentary by a UK scientist argues, the findings should be used to inform future rainforest conservation strategies.

The research assessed occurrence data of 1,538 plant, 460 bird and 156 dung beetle species throughout the Amazonian state of Pará in northern Brazil. They found that although disturbed forests retained considerable conservation value, disturbance impacts had an equivalent effect on biodiversity as the loss of 92,000–139,000 square kilometre of primary forest outside of Pará’s strictly protected areas. The authors conclude that even when deforestation is limited to the 20%, as is required by law, the remaining forest may only retain 46–61% of its conservation value.

Story based on information from Springer