What’s going on here?
Deforestation in Brazil could wipe out an ancient, Jurassic-era tree species in just 50 years.
What does this mean?
Brazil’s critically endangered araucaria tree could be gone by 2070 because of illegal logging and deforestation for public works, reports Mongabay.
These distinctive, candelabra-like trees (Araucaria angustifolia) once covered an area about double the size of Portugal. Now logging has reduced them to scattered patches totalling 2% of their historic range.
In one case of state-authorised logging, a power-line construction project in Paraná tore through 4,000 of the native trees. In Almirante Tamandaré, about 200 were chopped down for private housing.
And if logging wasn’t enough, human-caused climate change is also adding to the plight of these cold-adapted trees.
Why should we care?
Some may argue protected areas could keep the trees safe. But national parks and other conservation projects hold just 2.5% of the habitat that araucaria trees like best, according to a 2019 study. And biologist and forest engineer Ricardo Brites says we need to save the araucaria forests outside the protected areas to guarantee genetic diversity for their repopulation.
It’s not just about saving a tree species that is 200 million years older than humans. Forests mop up carbon emissions, so cutting them down intensifies climate change. Deforestation also causes drought.
Clóvis Borges, Director at the Society for Wildlife Research and Environmental Education, said: “In times of water and climate crises, eliminating what remains of araucaria forests risks our future quality of life and survival. Protecting them is also in the public interest.”
- The araucaria tree’s plight is part of the broader deforestation disaster in Brazil. Follow organisations working to preserve forests like Greenpeace Brasil, Amazon Watch and Amazon Conservation.
- Check out this high-profile world tree map by Global Forest Watch
- Not fired-up enough about deforestation? Borrow this “impassioned work of activism” from your library: Richard Powers’s Pulitzer-winning novel The Overstory.
- For some background into the politics behind the deforestation crisis in Brazil, read this Guardian piece.