We Are Killing Earth: Numerous Amazon Tree Species at Risk of Extinction

© Flickr / Joseph KingLake Sunrise on the Tambopata River in the Peruvian Amazon.
Lake Sunrise on the Tambopata River in the Peruvian Amazon. - Sputnik International
The South American Amazon forest, which is well-known worldwide for its unique species, could lose 50 percent of its trees as the region constantly faces deforestation due to farming and cattle ranching, a report said Friday.

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Up to almost 60 percent of the world’s most diverse flora species would be extinct if people continue to overuse trees. These estimations have been conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature that found 15,000 trees at the risk of extinction.

The group of scientists provided first estimates that a 5.5 square km land extending from Brazil to French Guiana has critically endangered trees.

"Many of the species that we suggest may be threatened are used by Amazonian residents on a daily basis, and many others are crucial to Amazonian economies," said ecologist Nigel Pitman from the Field Museum in Chicago.

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One can never overestimate the importance of the ecosystem created by Amazonian trees, as they not only control the erosion and climate in the region but also provide residents with essential fruits, seeds, thatch, medicines, latex and essential oils, the Brazil nut, chocolate, açaí berry and heart of palm, timber species which drive the region’s economy.

"Scientists have been raising the alarm about Amazonian deforestation for several decades, and projections indicate that forest loss will continue for the foreseeable future," said forest ecologist Hans ter Steege from the Netherlands-based Naturalis Biodiversity Center.

"The good news is that over the last 10 years the rate of forest loss in the Amazon has dropped dramatically," the ecologist said.

The 1950s marked a time when Amazonian forests have started to shrink as people exploited tens of thousands of square meters for farming, land utilization, and cattle ranching. The latest research gives the most accurate data as before there was no reliable information of the number of trees on the verge of extinction.

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According to Pitman, despite the threats, it’s crucial to keep in mind that overwhelming majority of forests (85%) in the Amazon are still safe.

The new findings first published in the Science Advances journal claimed that the great Amazonian species may be protected by well-managed parks, recreation areas and reserves in the region. The Amazon was found to have 12 percent of forests cut and if the trend continues, the region will inevitably see 40 percent of trees extinct in 35 years.

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