Climate change could spell the end for several Atlantic Forest species

. Oct 09, 2018
Climate change could disappear with several Atlantic Forest species Several species will disappear due to climate change

Global warming and climate change could lead to the extinction of up to 10 percent of toad and frog species endemic to Brazil’s Atlantic Forest and the Cerrado, a savannah-like biome that spans almost one-quarter of the country. According to a study published in the Ecology and Evolution magazine, changes in rainfall patterns over the next few decades will be fatal for species that don’t adapt well to climate variations.

“The research’s main goal was to survey all anuran [frog and toad] species in those biomes and assess their adaptability to climate change, based on their climate preferences and the trends in rainfall for the period of 2050-2070,” says lead researcher Tiago da Silveira Vasconcelos, of São Paulo State University. The study was carried out with the support of the São Paulo Research Foundation (Fapesp) and had the support of Bruno Tayar Marinho do Nascimento (also of São Paulo State University), and Vitor Hugo Mendonça do Prado (Goiás State University).

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Today, 550 anuran species are known in the Atlantic Forest (80 percent of them are endemic), and there are 209 known species in the Cerrado. Mr. Vasconcelos worked with data of spatial distribution of 350 species in the Atlantic Forest and 155 in the Cerrado &#8211; those found in at least five different locations.</span></p> <div id="attachment_9631" style="width: 1034px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-9631" class="size-large wp-image-9631" src="" alt="Climate change could disappear with several Atlantic Forest species" width="1024" height="778" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1280w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><p id="caption-attachment-9631" class="wp-caption-text">Climate change will curb biodiversity</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;That allowed us to identify the areas with a richer presence of frogs, as opposed to areas where a single species was found. Once we identified those areas, we evaluated the frog community in today&#8217;s climate as opposed to what their environment will look in the future. That&#8217;s how we can tell if their ecosystems will shrink or expand by 2070, due to climate change,&#8221; said Mr. Vasconcelos.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Two ecology metrics were used: </span></p> <ul> <li style="font-weight: 400;"><b><i>Alpha diversity:</i></b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> the local diversity, which refers to the number of species in a small area of homogenous habitat;</span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;"><b><i>Beta diversity:</i></b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> the variation in the composition of species between different habitats, which reveals the heterogeneity of the entire community structure.</span></li> </ul> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Using different algorithms, the group of researchers calculated climate niches, based on the characteristics that are favorable to each species. These calculations generated maps of the regions in which each species can survive. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;We use two projections: a very pessimistic, warmer climate one, and a more optimistic one, in which global warming would be less dramatic,&#8221; said the lead researcher. The data, however, is not exactly encouraging, as it shows that 37 species from the Atlantic Forest and five from the Cerrado are bound for extinction. Of these 42 types of frogs and toads, only five are currently listed as endangered by the Ministry of the Environment.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Data shows that climate change could be responsible for the homogenization of species, meaning that only more general ones, which are able to adapt to different habitats, would be able to survive. A huge blow to Brazil&#8217;s biodiversity.</span></p> <h2>What&#8217;s left of Brazil&#8217;s Atlantic Forest</h2> <div id="attachment_9632" style="width: 630px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-9632" class="size-full wp-image-9632" src="" alt="Climate change could disappear with several Atlantic Forest species" width="620" height="615" srcset=" 620w, 150w, 300w, 610w, 120w" sizes="(max-width: 620px) 100vw, 620px" /><p id="caption-attachment-9632" class="wp-caption-text">The Atlantic Forest</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In 2006, Brazil passed the Atlantic Forest law, establishing <a href="">preservation areas</a> in 17 states &#8211; comprising 38 percent of the Brazilian territory. The biome, however, has been almost entirely devastated. Of its original surface, only 12.4 percent remains, according to official data. Still, it is more than four times the size of Portugal, though spread around the country in small pockets of forest. Estimates say that only 7 percent of the original forest remains in clusters of 100 hectares or more.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Until the year 2000, deforestation rates remained fairly stable. Over the past two decades, however, it fell sharply, only to spike in 2016. The state of Rio de Janeiro is the one that has preserved the most of the Atlantic Forest, managing to keep 34 percent of the original forest intact. One crucial mechanism to curb deforestation is a tax that benefits the least destructive states.

Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist, Gustavo has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. He has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets and founded The Brazilian Report in 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

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