Brazil’s Rainforest Suffering Widespread Extinction

By Amir Khan on August 15, 2012 12:08 PM EDT

Rainforest
Animals in secluded sections of Brazil's rainforest are dying off at an alarming rate, according to a new study (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Animals in secluded sections of Brazil's rainforest are dying off at an alarming rate, according to a new study, published in the journal PLoS ONE. Researchers found that rainforests cut off from larger areas by farms, roads and cities are suffering from a widespread extinction that is occurring faster than scientists previously thought.

Researchers visited 196 separated rainforests in Brazil and found only four of the 18 species typically seen.

"We uncovered a staggering rate of local extinctions," the researchers wrote in their study. White-lipped peccaries, an animal similar to pigs, "were completely wiped out and jaguars, lowland tapirs, woolly spider monkeys and giant anteaters were virtually extinct."

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Previous estimates for declining wildlife populations were based on the size of the forest and survival rates, but underestimated other pressures such as fires, hunting, and deforestation.

"This is bad news for conservation," Carlos Peres, a researcher with Britain's University of East Anglia, told Reuters.

The rate of extinction in other countries such as Indonesia, Ghana and Madagascar is likely similar, researchers said.

"This paper is a very big positive endorsement of more protected areas," Peres said.

Researchers said putting a price on the value of trees could help curb deforestation. Forests absorb carbon dioxide, which helps to mitigate the effects of climate change. A United Nations program called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD), would put a price on the carbon stored in trees.

"My mission is to put wildlife and biodiversity into that second 'D' of REDD," Peres said.

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