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Threats to the Biodiversity of the Amazon By: Katie Julian, Tara Gallagher, and Jessica Darga The Amazon is a canary in a coal mine for the Earth - Dan Nepstadt, Ecologist (October 2005) Hypothesis:

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Threats to the biodiversity of the amazon l.jpg

Threats to the Biodiversity of the Amazon

By: Katie Julian, Tara Gallagher, and Jessica Darga

The Amazon is a canary in a coal mine for the Earth - Dan Nepstadt, Ecologist (October 2005)

Hypothesis l.jpg

We believe that anthropogenic impacts will pose a greater threat to biodiversity in the amazon than natural impacts.

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Natural Impacts

  • Environmental changes that impact the health, habitat, variance, and vitality of the species who dwell in the rainforest.

    Anthropogenic Impacts

  • Impacts caused by human activities that directly or indirectly effect the health, habitat, variance, and vitality of the species who dwell in the rainforest.

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What We Wish to Learn:

  • What is the current stance of biodiversity in the rainforest?

  • Why is species diversity important to conserve within the rainforest?

  • What are the threats to biodiversity in the Amazon basin?

  • Which of these threats, human or natural, poses a greater threat to biodiversity?

  • What will happen if these threats are not curbed?

  • What can we do to mitigate these threats? Can we change our path of destruction?

Why is it important to know whether natural or anthropogenic impacts are more influential l.jpg
Why is it important to know whether or anthropogenic impactsare more influential?

  • Influences plan of action

  • Mitigation efforts

  • These are not isolated trends, the planet as a whole is also affected

  • We share the earth and what effects animal and plant biodiversity also effects mankind

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Why should we conserve the rainforest?

  • Medicinal values

  • Cultural identity and aesthetic value

  • Biodiversity decreases the spread of disease

  • Large carbon uptake through photosynthesis

  • Maintains natural cycles

    • Nitrogen cycle

    • Water cycle

  • Biological productivity

  • Aids in regulating climate

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Current State of the Amazon

  • Covers 500 million ha, about 40% of Brazil

  • Hot spot: currently experiencing the highest rate of forest degradation in the world

  • Home to many Endemic/ Endangered species

  • Extreme interconnectivity of biodiversity leads to domino effects

  • 8.3% of Amazonian Rainforest ecosystems are under enforced protection

  • “An estimated 20,000 square miles of the Amazon rainforest is destroyed every year (about the size of West Virginia). At this rate, the Amazon would be completely gone in 50 years.”

  • Loss of undiscovered medicinal plants and species

  • Drastic increase in deforestation since 1992

  • “Brazil's deforestation rate has increased 36% in the period of 1991-94 in the light of increased logging, subsistence activities, and agricultural projects."

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Amazonian Biodiversity

  • 30,000 endemic plant species

    found no where else!

  • 173 Mammals

  • 69 Primates

  • 260 Birds

  • 216 Reptiles

  • 364 Amphibians

  • One tree in the Amazon harbors

    as many species of ants as the

    entire British Isles

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Natural Threats

Natural threats have effected the Amazon Rainforests for all of its existence but studies show they are far less damaging then human impacts on the region. In fact, natural “threats” to the rainforest can actually be beneficial to the growth of biodiversity.

  • Fire

  • Drought

  • Tropical Storms

  • Evolution and Natural Extinction

  • Milankovitch cycles

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Fire and Drought

  • Fires rid the Rainforest of its weaker vegetation on the ground level, discounting the canopy species.

  • They can be initiated by lightningAnd are partly instigated through droughts

  • Drought is brought on by a reduction of humidity and rainfall in the rainforest

  • Increase in disease

  • El Niño- unusual sunny summers, wet alternating seasons

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Tropical Storms

  • El Niño

  • Tree fall can damage surrounding trees causing gaps in the forest canopy

  • Unusually damaging storms

  • Lightening provides the energy needed to form nitrates needed in the nitrogen cycle

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Evolution and Natural Extinction

  • Natural Selection

  • Survival of the fittest

  • Biology plays larger role then external factors- variable rates

  • Evolutionary process

    -climate change



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Milankovitch Cycles

  • Eccentricity

    occurs ever 400 and 100 ka

  • Obliquity

    occurs ever 41 ka

  • Precession

    occurs every 23 ka

  • Glaciers and ice ages


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Anthropogenic Threats:

  • Deforestation

  • Fragmentation

  • Bush meat trade

  • Exotic pet trade

  • Poaching

  • Non-native species

  • Pollution

  • CO2 emissions

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Anthropogenic Impacts Have an accelerated rate of change due to:

  • Population growth

  • Industrialization

    • fossil fuel emissions

    • pollution

  • Urbanization

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Population Growth to:Exacerbates Anthropogenic Threats

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Conclusions to:

  • Natural threats to biodiversity are slower and more gradual than anthropogenic threats, allowing biodiversity to adapt or evolve

  • Anthropogenic threats occur at an accelerated rate; biodiversity cannot adjust quickly enough to persevere this rate of change

  • Natural threats are cyclical and balancing over long periods of time while anthropogenic threats are exponential and immediately disruptive

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Predictions to:

  • If the destruction of the Amazon continues at its current rate, then most of its biodiversity will be lost forever in 40-50 years.

  • Locally and globally the population is not yet stable. With continued population growth and modernization will come an increase in consumptive use.

  • Thirty-three percent of the remaining tropical rainforest are found in the Amazon basin in Brazil, if this area is depleted, the earth will lose an enormous portion of its total biodiversity.

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Possible Solutions to:

The preservation of biodiversity is not just a job for governments. International and non-governmental organizations, the private sector and each and every individual have a role to play in changing entrenched outlooks and ending destructive patterns of behavior

Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General 2003 International Day of Biological Diversity

  • Maintaining the Sustainable Use doctrine

  • Draft legislation to protect these areas and find ways to better enforce these restrictions

  • Individuals can boycott “fluff” products that aid in the destruction of the Amazon

    such as mahogany and teak woods

  • Individuals can also support companies and organizations that promote sustainable use of the Amazon’s vast resources, such as Greenpeace, Ecotrust and the Amazon Alliance

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“ I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.And I'm asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs--he was very upset as he shouted and puffed--What's that THING you've made out of my Truffula tuft?”

- The Lorax by Dr. Suess

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Works Cited to:

  • Allan, J.D. Class Lecture: “Emergence of Infectious Diseases”. University of Michigan,

  •             Ann Arbor. 10 Feb. 2006.

  • Anderson, Anthony B., ed. Alternative to Deforestation: Steps Toward Sustainable Use of the Amazon Rain Forest. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990.

  • Bunker, Daniel E. and Walter P. Carson. “Drought stress and tropical forest woody seedlings: effect on community structure and composition. Journal of Ecology. 93 (2005):794-806

  • Fearnside, Philip. “Viewpoint: Are climate change impacts already affecting tropical rainforest biomass?” Global Environmental Change 14 (2004) 299-302.

  • Forester, Deborah J., and Gary E. Machlis. "Modeling Human Factors That Affect the Loss of Biodiversity." Consevation Biology 10.4 (1996): 1253-1263.

  • Gitay, Habiba . "Climate Change and Biodiversity." Intergovenmental Panel on Climate Change (2002):1-86.

  • Hill, Jane, and Keith Hamer. "Determining impacts of habitat modification on diversity of tropical forest fauna: the importance of spatial scale." Journal of Applied Ecology 2004:744-754.

  • Hill, Jennifer L. and Paul J. Curran. “Area, shape and isolation of tropical rainforest fragments-effects on tree species diversity and implications for conservation”. Journal of Biogeography. 30 (2003):1391-1403

  • Kappelle, Maarten, Margret M.I. Van Vuuren and Pieter Baas. “Effects of climate change on biodiversity: a review and identification of key research issues.” Biodiversity and Conservation. 8 (2005): 1383-1397

  • Konowski, J. “Consequences of broad scale timber plantations for biodiversity in cleared rainforest landscapes of tropical and subtropical Africa”. Forest and Ecology Management 208 (2005) 359-372.

  • Laurance, William F., and G. Bruce Williamson. "Positive Feedback Amoung Forest Fragmentation, Drought, and Climate Change in Amazon." Conservation Biology 15.6 (2001): 1529-1535.

  • Norbe, C.A., J. H. C. Gash, J. M. Roberts, and R. L. Victoria. Amazonian Deforestation and Climate. John Wiley & Sons Ltd., West Sussex, England. 1996.

  • Sala, Osvaldo E, and F. Stuart Chapin III . "Global Biodiversity Scenarios for the Year 2100." Science, New Series 287.5459 (2000): 1770-1774.

  • Sayer, Jeffrey. Rainforest Buffer Zones: Guidelines for Protected Area Managers. The Nature Conservation Bureau Ltd. Newbury, Berkshire, UK.1991.

  • Webb, Thomas J., Ian F. Woodward, Hannah, Lee, and Kevin J Gaston.  2005.  “Forest cover-rainfall relationships in a biodiversity hotspot: The Atlantic Forest of Brazil”.  Ecological Applications 15(6):  1968-1983.