March 22, 2006

Greater efforts needed to save Amazon rainforests

LONDON (Reuters) - About 40 percent of the Amazon's
rainforests could be lost by 2050 unless more is done to
prevent what could become one of the world's worst
environmental crisis, scientists said on Wednesday.

Existing laws and preserving public wildlife reserves will
not be enough. Measures are also needed to protect rainforests
from the impact of profitable industries such as cattle
ranching and soy farming, they added.

"By 2050, current trends in agricultural expansion will
eliminate a total of 40 percent of Amazon forests, including
six major watersheds and ecoregions," Britaldo Soares-Filho, of
the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil, said in a
report in the journal Nature.

A watershed is an area of land where all of the water that
is under it or drains from it goes into the same place. It
supplies water and habitats for plants and animals.

Soares-Filho and his colleagues used computer models to
simulate what would happen to the Brazilian rainforests in the
future under different scenarios.

"For the first time, we can examine how individual policies
ranging from the paving of highways to the requirement for
forest reserves on private properties will influence the future
of the world's largest tropical forest," Soares-Filho said in a

Without further checks, the scientists predict nearly 100
native species will be deprived of more than half of their
habitats and nearly 2 million square kilometres (772,300 sq
mile) of forest will be lost.

But if more is done to control expansion and increase
protected areas, 73 percent of the original forest would remain
in 2050 and carbon emissions would be reduced.

The scientists said better conservation of the rainforest
would have worldwide benefits so developed countries should be
willing to pay to make it possible.

"By building a policy-sensitive crystal ball for the
Amazon, we are able to identify the most important policy
levers for reconciling economic development with conservation,"
said Daniel Nepstad, a co-author of the study who leads the
Amazon program of the Woods Hole Research Center in