A Brazilian study published in Nature Communications shows that human activities have directly or indirectly caused biodiversity and biomass losses in over 80% of the remaining Atlantic Rainforest fragments.
Researchers at the University of São Paulo estimated biodiversity and biomass losses in the biome using data from 1,819 forest inventories. In terms of carbon storage, the losses correspond to the destruction of 70,000 km² of forest, representing some USD 2.6 billion in carbon credits. Credit: Renato de Lima/USP
According to the authors, in terms of carbon storage, the biomass erosion corresponds to the destruction of 70,000 square kilometers (km²) of forest—almost 10 million soccer pitches—or USD 2.3 billion-USD 2.6 billion in carbon credits. "These figures have direct implications for mechanisms of climate change mitigation," they state in the article.
Atlantic Rainforest remnants in Brazil are strung along its long coastline. The biome once covered 15% of Brazil, totaling 1,315,460 km². Only 20% of the original area is now left. The fragments are of varying sizes and have different characteristics.
To estimate the impact of human activity on these remnants, the researchers used data from 1,819 forest inventories conducted by several research groups.
"These inventories are a sort of tree census. The researchers go into the field and choose an area to survey, typically 100 meters by 100 meters. All the trees found within this perimeter are identified, analyzed, and measured," said Renato de Lima, a researcher at the University of São Paulo's Institute of Biosciences (IB-USP) and leader of the study. "We compiled all the data available in the scientific literature and calculated the average loss of biodiversity and biomass in the fragments studied, which represent 1% of the biome. We then used statistical methods to extrapolate the results to the fragments not studied, assuming that the impact would be constant throughout the Atlantic Rainforest biome."
After identifying the tree species in a fragment, the researchers estimated the size of their seeds and also what they call the "ecological or successional group". These two factors indicate how healthy the…