Deforestation is not only leaving us with fewer forests, but fewer species as well

The negative effects associated with deforestation have long been known, but the profound impact on international species was the focus of a recent Australian study.

Their research, undertaken by Macquarie University, was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and revealed that hundreds of thousands of species could soon become extinct due to the effects of deforestation. In other words, expect to be seeing less butterflies, beetles, bats and birds in the very near future.

The study examined global data, documenting 11 key ecological groups, with researchers saying that many rare species that we had not heard of, could have already gone extinct in tropical regions. This is because tropical rainforests are the primary homes for the large majority of our plant and animal species. Removing the homes of these large communities results in mass extinction.

Credit: Eleanor Tomkins

This research is the first of its kind, as never before have trends been able to predict what is likely to happen if serious changes are not made. Predicted losses of species if deforestation in tropical forests continues will be extremely high. 18% of every animal group, with the exception of large mammals and mosquitoes, and more than 28% for seven groups in total are expected to go extinct.

An author of the study, Associate Professor John Alroy from the Department of Biological Sciences, believes that this study is integral to changing how rainforests across the globe are treated -“Even if we preserve forests of some kind in many places, unless we protect them from ever being logged, those forests may end up being empty.”

Action and further research into tropical forests and the rare species that inhabit them is necessary and needs to happen now, as it is these unknown species that are more susceptible to extinction. Habitat destruction impacts on the richness of local ecosystems, and just because some common species can adapt does not mean that all can.

Tropical rainforests only cover 10% of earth’s continental area and yet this small space is home to two-thirds to three-quarters of the world’s species.

As Alroy explained, if humanity wants to protect species for future generations, “The time to do it, is now”.