Amazonian tree species threatened by deforestation and climate change

Gomes et al. 2019. Nature Climate Change 9: 547-553. DOI: 10.1038/s41558-019-0500-2

Deforestation is currently the major threat to Amazonian tree species but climate change may surpass it in just a few decades. Here, we show that climate and deforestation combined could cause a decline of up to 58% in Amazon tree species richness, whilst deforestation alone may cause 19–36% and climate change 31–37% by 2050. Quantification is achieved by overlaying species distribution models for current and future climate change scenarios with historical and projected deforestation. Species may lose an average of 65% of their original environmentally suitable area, and a total of 53% may be threatened according to IUCN Red List criteria; however, Amazonian protected area networks reduce these impacts. The worst-case combined scenario—assuming no substantial climate or deforestation policy progress—suggests that by 2050 the Amazonian lowland rainforest may be cut into two blocks: one continuous block with 53% of the original area and another severely fragmented block. This outlook urges rapid progress to zero deforestation, which would help to mitigate climate change and foster biodiversity conservation.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith