Race to find Amazon species before they disappear

Burnt down trees and land, animal news
A burning area of the Amazon jungle is seen near Apui, Amazonas State, Brazil, August 11, 2020. Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino

“The rate of destruction is faster than the rate of discovery,” Francisco Farronay of the National Institute of Amazonian Research
(INPA) said during an expedition in a remote part of the Brazilian Amazon to discover plants and study animals. “It is a race against time.”

The Amazon rainforest is still largely unexplored by science, but it’s being destroyed at a rapid rate by deforestation for animal farming, mining and illegal timber extraction.

The Amazon rainforest lost almost 75 million hectares between 1985 and 2020, according to a MapBiomas study last year

“Most plant species in the Amazon are to be found in encroached areas,” Alberto Vicentini, another member of the expedition launched by environmental organization Greenpeace, said.

It is estimated that “we do not know 60 percent of the tree species, and every time an area is deforested, it destroys a part of the biodiversity that we will never know about,” Vicentini said.

During their expedition, the team collects plant samples and installs cameras and microphones to study animal behavior. “There are places where no one has ever been, we have no idea what is there,” said INPA biologist Lucia Rapp Py-Daniel.

The group includes experts in birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish, trees and flowers. But they say nowadays it’s tough to be a scientist in Brazil. “We are living in a moment of science denialism,” said Vicentini.

“Research institutions in Brazil are under attack by the policies of this government, universities are suffering many cuts,” he added.

In May, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC) and the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC) said that funding for scientific research would be cut by almost 3.0 billion reais (about $560 million) this year.

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