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Sunday, August 17, 2008

20% of the Brazilian Amazon's tree species to go extinct

A new study estimates the number of trees that will go extinct in the Brazilian Amazon due to habitat loss.

The research, published in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), suggests that under optimistic scenarios, 20 percent of tree species will disappear. In a bleaker scenario, 33 percent will go extinct. If this proves true, Amazonian trees may be in as much danger as coral reefs and amphibians, both of which face extinction crises.

Although, no one knows the actual number of tree species in the Brazilian Amazon, the authors, led by Stephen P. Hubbell of the University of California at Los Angeles, used various mathematical theories to estimate the number of species at just over 11,200, including 5,308 rare species with less than 10,000 surviving individuals. Predicted extinction rates for these rare species are high, ranging from 37-50 percent.

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