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Amazon rainforest

Amazon rainforest destruction accelerated by fragmentation

Wednesday, November 29, 2006 by: Jerome Douglas
Tags: Amazon rainforest, deforestation, forest management

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(NewsTarget) Many species of trees and other plants and animals that depend on the Amazon rain forest are disappearing more quickly than most experts anticipated, according to William Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

"Rain forest trees can live for centuries, even millennia, so none of us expected things to change too fast but in just two decades -- a wink of time for a thousand year-old tree -- the ecosystem has been seriously degraded."

Laurance and his team have written their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, stating that fragmenting the forest creates more edges -- exposing trees that would normally have been protected by other trees.

Laurance's team went on to say that "When you fragment a forest, the winners are common pioneer and generalist species that like forest disturbance the losers are rare, slow-growing tree species that provide fruit, nectar, and homes for a diversity of rain forest animals." Laurance's research team did not report on saplings or seedlings, but said these would be even more vulnerable.

The team of researchers has been studying Brazil's rain forest for 22 years and has covered nearly 32,000 individual trees. "The rain forests of central Amazonia contain some of the most biologically diverse tree communities ever encountered, averaging 250 species that attain a diameter of at least four inches per 2.5 acres," noted the research team in their released report.

The research team found that nearly a fifth of some of the most common tree genera. The larger groups comprised of several related species declined in abundance over the 22 years during the report's measurement period. Only one-tenth of the genera became more abundant, and those within 300 feet of the forest edges were the most vulnerable.


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