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Threats to the Biodiversity of the Amazon
By: Katie Julian, Tara Gallagher, and Jessica Darga
The Amazon is a canary in a coal mine for the Earth Dan Nepstadt, Ecologist (October 2005)
We believe that anthropogenic impacts will
pose a greater threat to biodiversity in the
amazon than natural impacts.
Natural Impacts
• Environmental changes that impact the
health, habitat, variance, and vitality of the
species who dwell in the rainforest.
Anthropogenic Impacts
• Impacts caused by human activities that
directly or indirectly effect the health,
habitat, variance, and vitality of the
species who dwell in the rainforest.
What We Wish to Learn:
• What is the current stance of biodiversity in the
• Why is species diversity important to conserve within the
• What are the threats to biodiversity in the Amazon
• Which of these threats, human or natural, poses a
greater threat to biodiversity?
• What will happen if these threats are not curbed?
• What can we do to mitigate these threats? Can we
change our path of destruction?
Why is it important to know whether
natural or anthropogenic impacts
are more influential?
• Influences plan of action
• Mitigation efforts
• These are not isolated trends, the planet
as a whole is also affected
• We share the earth and what effects
animal and plant biodiversity also effects
Why should we conserve the rainforest?
Medicinal values
Cultural identity and aesthetic value
Biodiversity decreases the spread of disease
Large carbon uptake through photosynthesis
Maintains natural cycles
- Nitrogen cycle
- Water cycle
• Biological productivity
• Aids in regulating climate
Current State of the Amazon
• Covers 500 million ha, about 40% of Brazil
• Hot spot: currently experiencing the highest rate of forest
degradation in the world
• Home to many Endemic/ Endangered species
• Extreme interconnectivity of biodiversity leads to domino
• 8.3% of Amazonian Rainforest ecosystems are under
enforced protection
• “An estimated 20,000 square miles of the Amazon rainforest
is destroyed every year (about the size of West Virginia). At
this rate, the Amazon would be completely gone in 50 years.”
• Loss of undiscovered medicinal plants and species
• Drastic increase in deforestation since 1992
• “Brazil's deforestation rate has increased 36% in the period
of 1991-94 in the light of increased logging, subsistence
activities, and agricultural projects."
Amazonian Biodiversity
• 30,000 endemic plant species
found no where else!
• 173 Mammals
• 69 Primates
• 260 Birds
• 216 Reptiles
• 364 Amphibians
• One tree in the Amazon harbors
as many species of ants as the
entire British Isles
Natural Threats
Natural threats have effected the Amazon
Rainforests for all of its existence but studies
show they are far less damaging then human
impacts on the region. In fact, natural “threats” to
the rainforest can actually be beneficial to the
growth of biodiversity.
Tropical Storms
Evolution and Natural Extinction
Milankovitch cycles
Fire and Drought
• Fires rid the Rainforest of its weaker vegetation on the
ground level, discounting the canopy species.
• They can be initiated by lightning
And are partly instigated through droughts
• Drought is brought on by a reduction of humidity and
rainfall in the rainforest
• Increase in disease
• El Niño- unusual sunny summers, wet alternating
Tropical Storms
• El Niño
• Tree fall can damage surrounding trees
causing gaps in the forest canopy
• Unusually damaging storms
• Lightening provides the energy needed
to form nitrates needed in the nitrogen
Evolution and Natural Extinction
• Natural Selection
• Survival of the fittest
• Biology plays larger
role then external
factors- variable
• Evolutionary
-climate change
Milankovitch Cycles
• Eccentricity
occurs ever 400 and 100 ka
• Obliquity
occurs ever 41 ka
• Precession
occurs every 23 ka
• Glaciers and ice ages
Anthropogenic Threats:
Bush meat trade
Exotic pet trade
Non-native species
CO2 emissions
Anthropogenic Impacts Have an
accelerated rate of change due to:
• Population growth
• Industrialization
– fossil fuel emissions
– pollution
• Urbanization
Population Growth
Exacerbates Anthropogenic Threats
• Natural threats to biodiversity are slower and
more gradual than anthropogenic threats,
allowing biodiversity to adapt or evolve
• Anthropogenic threats occur at an accelerated
rate; biodiversity cannot adjust quickly enough to
persevere this rate of change
• Natural threats are cyclical and balancing over
long periods of time while anthropogenic threats
are exponential and immediately disruptive
• If the destruction of the Amazon continues at its
current rate, then most of its biodiversity will be
lost forever in 40-50 years.
• Locally and globally the population is not yet
stable. With continued population growth and
modernization will come an increase in
consumptive use.
• Thirty-three percent of the remaining tropical
rainforest are found in the Amazon basin in
Brazil, if this area is depleted, the earth will lose
an enormous portion of its total biodiversity.
Possible Solutions
The preservation of biodiversity is not just a job for governments.
International and non-governmental organizations, the private sector
and each and every individual have a role to play in changing
entrenched outlooks and ending destructive patterns of behavior
Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General 2003 International Day of Biological Diversity
• Maintaining the Sustainable Use doctrine
• Draft legislation to protect these areas and find
ways to better enforce these restrictions
• Individuals can boycott “fluff” products that aid in
the destruction of the Amazon
such as mahogany and teak woods
• Individuals can also support companies and
organizations that promote sustainable use of
the Amazon’s vast resources, such as
Greenpeace, Ecotrust and the Amazon Alliance
“ I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
And I'm asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs-he was very upset as he shouted and puffed--
What's that THING you've made out of my Truffula tuft?”
- The Lorax by Dr. Suess
Works Cited
Allan, J.D. Class Lecture: “Emergence of Infectious Diseases”. University of Michigan,
Ann Arbor. 10 Feb. 2006.
Anderson, Anthony B., ed. Alternative to Deforestation: Steps Toward Sustainable Use of the Amazon Rain Forest. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990.
Bunker, Daniel E. and Walter P. Carson. “Drought stress and tropical forest woody seedlings: effect on community structure and composition. Journal of
Ecology. 93 (2005):794-806
Fearnside, Philip. “Viewpoint: Are climate change impacts already affecting tropical rainforest biomass?” Global Environmental Change 14 (2004) 299-302.
Forester, Deborah J., and Gary E. Machlis. "Modeling Human Factors That Affect the Loss of Biodiversity." Consevation Biology 10.4 (1996): 1253-1263.
Gitay, Habiba . "Climate Change and Biodiversity." Intergovenmental Panel on Climate Change (2002):1-86.
Hill, Jane, and Keith Hamer. "Determining impacts of habitat modification on diversity of tropical forest fauna: the importance of spatial scale." Journal of
Applied Ecology 2004:744-754.
Hill, Jennifer L. and Paul J. Curran. “Area, shape and isolation of tropical rainforest fragments-effects on tree species diversity and implications for
conservation”. Journal of Biogeography. 30 (2003):1391-1403
Kappelle, Maarten, Margret M.I. Van Vuuren and Pieter Baas. “Effects of climate change on biodiversity: a review and identification of key research issues.”
Biodiversity and Conservation. 8 (2005): 1383-1397
Konowski, J. “Consequences of broad scale timber plantations for biodiversity in cleared rainforest landscapes of tropical and subtropical Africa”. Forest and
Ecology Management 208 (2005) 359-372.
Laurance, William F., and G. Bruce Williamson. "Positive Feedback Amoung Forest Fragmentation, Drought, and Climate Change in Amazon." Conservation
Biology 15.6 (2001): 1529-1535.
Norbe, C.A., J. H. C. Gash, J. M. Roberts, and R. L. Victoria. Amazonian Deforestation and Climate. John Wiley & Sons Ltd., West Sussex, England. 1996.
Sala, Osvaldo E, and F. Stuart Chapin III . "Global Biodiversity Scenarios for the Year 2100." Science, New Series 287.5459 (2000): 1770-1774.
Sayer, Jeffrey. Rainforest Buffer Zones: Guidelines for Protected Area Managers. The Nature Conservation Bureau Ltd. Newbury, Berkshire, UK.1991.
Webb, Thomas J., Ian F. Woodward, Hannah, Lee, and Kevin J Gaston. 2005. “Forest cover-rainfall relationships in a biodiversity hotspot: The Atlantic Forest
of Brazil”. Ecological Applications 15(6): 1968-1983.