As world leaders prepare to discuss conservation-friendly carbon credits in Bali and a regional initiative threatens a new wave of deforestation in the South American tropics, new research from the University of East Anglia and Brazils Goeldi Museum highlights once again the irreplaceable importance of primary rain forest.
Working in the north-eastern Brazilian Amazon the international team of scientists undertook the single-largest assessment of the biodiversity conservation value of primary, secondary and plantation forests ever conducted in the humid tropics. The study was partly funded by the UK Governments Darwin Initiative and their findings are reported in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Over an area larger than Wales, the UEA and museum researchers surveyed five primary rain forest sites, five areas of natural secondary forest and five areas planted with fast-growing exotic trees (Eucalyptus), to evaluate patterns of biodiversity.
Following an intensive effort of more than 20,000 scientist hours in the field and laboratory, they collected data on the distribution of 15 different groups of animals (vertebrates and invertebrates) and woody plants, including well-studied groups such as monkeys, butterflies and amphibians and also more obscure species such as fruit flies, orchid bees and grasshoppers.
We know that different species often exhibit different responses to deforestation and so we sought to understand the consequences of land-use change for as many species as possible, said Dr Jos Barlow, a former post-doctoral researcher at UEA.
At least a quarter of all species were never found outside native primary forest habitat and the team acknowledges that this is an underestimate. Our study should be seen as a best-case scenario, as all our forests were relatively close to large areas of primary forests, providing ample sources for recolonisation, said Dr
|Contact: UEA Press Office|
University of East Anglia