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According to WWF, the Amazon rainforest is home to at least 40,000 plant species, 427 mammals, 1,300 birds, 378 reptiles, more than 400 amphibians, and nearly 3,000 freshwater fishes.Sadly, mass burnings and deforestation are threatening thousands of these species, forcing them to now face an existential crisis.
Photo: Unsplash/Jeffrey Su
A new study by University of Arizona researchers has assessed exactly how environmental policies on deforestation, as well as forest fires and drought, have impacted these plants and animals.
Researchers found that since 2001, between 40,000 and 73,400 square miles of the Amazon rainforest have been impacted by fires, which in turn affected 95 percent of all species, and 85 percent of species that are considered threatened.
Photo: Unsplash/Renting C
Habitat destruction began to decease in the mid-2000s when forest management policies were put in place in Brazil, but in 2019, 1,640 to 4,000 square miles of forest were impacted by fires, and habitat destruction has been on the rise.
“We show how policy has had a direct and enormous influence on the pace at which biodiversity across the entire Amazon has been affected,” said senior study author Brian Enquist, a professor in UArizona Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
Photo: Unsplash/gryffyn m
Unfortunately, the Amazon hasn’t gotten a break from these increasing impacts, preventing it from recovering.
Since fire is not part of the rainforest’s natural cycle, species are unable to adapt and eventually many may become extinct. The Amazon has lost 20 percent of its forest since the 1960s due to deforestation and fires, and it’s only predicted to get worse.
Photo: Unsplash/Karsten Winegeart
“What’s nasty about fire in that region is once it starts to encroach on areas that have not been burned, it degrades them irreparably and makes them more susceptible to burning in the future,” Enquist said.
He explains that preventing these fires are largely within our control, since most of them are set by people. He believes that a strong anti-deforestation policy in Brazil, along with “incentives for a forest economy,” will help save the forest and thousands of its species.
Learn more about how burning of the Amazon rainforest is affecting animals in the video below:
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