‘Rainforest defaunation is huge — these species are key’

Source: The post is based on an article “Rainforest defaunation is huge, these species are key” published in the Times of India on 16th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 – Environment and Ecology

Relevance: Rainforest Defaunation

News: There is rampant destruction of ecosystems worldwide. Over the years, the expansive tropical forest ecosystems in Mexico, etc. have become small, and isolated patches of vegetation, leading to their fragmentation.

Whether processes of evolution in biodiversity can survive such habitat fragmentation?

No. There are mutually beneficial interactions between plants and animals in tropical rainforests. For example, pollination and seed dispersal.

The interactions between plants and animals in tropical rainforests also jointly regulate the ecosystem. Further, all species can live in a balance.

Now, there would be disastrous consequences, if the understory of a rainforest where the interactions between plants and animals have evolved and takes place, like seed dispersal to plant regulation, is removed.

The deforestation or the destruction of the forest will damage the processes of interactions between plants and animals. Further, it will also lead to the process of defaunation or loss of animal life.

Scale of defaunation

Over the last four decades, the vertebrates’ animals have shrunk by 30%.

Over the last 40 years, there has been an approximately 50% rate of decline or Tropical defaunation.

In the Brazilian Amazon, the most diverse rainforest on Earth, we are losing 40 million vertebrates’ monkeys, birds, deer each year due to hunting and poaching. The same trend is consistent in all the world’s rainforests.

Further, removal of animals also leads to cascading consequences. For example, when parent monkeys are removed from a rainforest, the baby monkeys cannot survive without their parents.

What are the solutions?

(1) To spread awareness of defaunation. The use of the term ‘defaunation’ may help citizens and policy makers to measure the magnitude of the loss of animal life.

(2) Scientists and ecologists must engage the global public to stop the destruction of habitats, which is the biggest driver of biodiversity loss.

(3) What’s left must be protected and focus on refaunation via rewilding and translocation to the homes. It will help revive vital ecosystem processes and control rodents that carry dangerous pathogens.

(4) It is also very important to respect the knowledge of indigenous societies. These have conserved viable forestry and sustainable agriculture through diversified land use, mosaics of agriculture, agripastoral and forest management systems that save biodiversity.

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