Climate change has a greater impact on rainforest ecosystems than deforestation
Climate change has a greater impact on the rainforest than deforestation, a new study of mammals in South America claims.
Researchers at the Field Museum in Chicago say that logging destroys some local animal populations – global warming is destroying the whole species.
It was previously thought that the multi-billion dollar logging sector was the biggest threat to ecosystems, but researchers now say that climate change has a greater impact.
Chief author Professor Noe de la Sancha said ‘Save the Rainforests’ is a spicy slogan, but it doesn’t tell the full story of how complicated it is to do that.
He said they made a detailed measurement of biodiversity by looking at the variety of species and their place in the ecosystem, rather than a total number of creatures.
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By measuring characteristics such as ear, foot and tail size in species such as Euryoryzomys russatus, researchers can quantify the functional diversity in large rain forests
His new study investigated the way animals and plants use forests, how they interact and the variety of species to determine the impact of logging.
Researchers say that if part of the rainforest is felled, some animals might disappear from that area – but the same species could survive elsewhere and other similar species could fill their space in the ecosystem.
Rainforests are a vital carbon storage site that slows the pace of global warming, they also contain a significant number of unique species of plants and animals.
Before nature conservationists can start ‘saving the rainforest’, scientists need to find out what lives and dies there, says Professor de la Sancha.
They know they need to restore habitats and advocate laws that protect land, but not which habitats or what the laws should specifically protect.
“When we think of biodiversity, we usually think of the number of species in a given place – what we call taxonomic diversity,” said de la Sancha.
“This article aims to include better measures for biodiversity, including functional and phylogenetic diversity.”
By measuring characteristics such as the size of the ear, foot and tail of the large-headed rice cup, or Euryoryzomys, his team calculated the functional state of the ecosystem.
This is the amount of biodiversity based on the role that organisms play and how much a habitat can support.
Instead of just counting the species in an area, it is also responsible for what they eat – for example, insects or seeds – and whether they live in the undergrowth or in trees.
Phylogenetic diversity looks at how many branches of the pedigree of an animal are represented in a certain area.
A piece of land that consists almost entirely of rodents would be considered much less diverse than a country where marsupials and other creatures also live – even if they had the same number of species, the professor said.
This approach enabled the team to discover patterns that they would not have identified using a single dimension of diversity alone.
The study focused on the Atlantic forest that extends along the coast of Brazil and as far as Paraguay and Argentina.
It is one of the world’s most ecologically diverse and vulnerable regions – second to the Amazon.
“Only nine percent of the original habitat space remains,” said Sancha.
‘We still have so much that we don’t know about so many of these species, which underlines the need for more fieldwork.
“Once we have more specimens, we can improve the way we quantify functional diversity and our understanding of why these small mammals have evolved as they did.
“From there we can better follow the biodiversity in these areas, which can lead to improved models and conservation strategies.”
The Atlantic forest is the second largest and second most biodiverse forest in South America
The researcher says that the findings in the Atlantic forest probably also apply to other rain forests, but despite the bad news they come with a “silver lining.”
‘As long as we have forest – and we still have to have forest – we can maintain biodiversity on a large scale.
“As long as we don’t wipe it all out, there are good indications that we can maintain biodiversity, at least for small mammals, and the ecosystem services that these creatures provide.”
Last year satellite data showed an area of the Amazon rainforest, about the size of a soccer field is now cleared every minute by lumberjacks.
Rain forests once covered 14 percent of the Earth’s land, but now almost half have disappeared and only eight percent are left.
The most worrying thing is that if this level of deforestation persists, experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests can be destroyed in just 100 years.
The research is published in the journal Biotropics.
WHAT DOES IT PREDICT FOR THE LOT OF PLANET PLANTS AND ANIMALS?
Nature now has more problems than ever before in human history, with extinction looming over a million species of plants and animals, experts say.
That is the most important finding of the first comprehensive United Nations report on biodiversity – the diversity of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat.
The report – published on May 6, 2019 – says that species are lost dozens or hundreds of times faster than in the past.
Many of the worst effects can be prevented by changing the way we grow food, produce energy, deal with climate change and throw away waste, the report said.
The 39-page summary of the report highlighted five ways in which people reduce biodiversity:
– Forests, grasslands and other areas turn into farms, cities and other developments. The loss of habitat makes plants and animals homeless. Approximately three-quarters of the Earth’s land, two-thirds of the oceans and 85% of the crucial wetlands have been severely changed or lost, making it harder for species to survive, the report said.
– Overfishing of the world’s oceans. A third of the world’s fish stocks are overfished.
– Allowing climate change by burning fossil fuels to make it too hot, wet or dry for some species to survive. Almost half of the land mammals in the world – excluding bats – and nearly a quarter of the birds have already hit their habitats hard by global warming.
– Polluting land and water. Every year, 300 to 400 million tonnes of heavy metals, solvents and toxic sludge are dumped into the world’s waters.
– Allowing invasive species to displace native plants and animals. The number of invasive alien species per country has risen by 70 percent since 1970, with one species of bacteria threatening nearly 400 species of amphibians.