The world’s tropical forests are being cleared rapidly, and ecologists claim this is causing a massive loss of species. This claim has its critics. Can we predict extinctions from the extent of deforestation? We mapped the percentage of deforestation on the islands of the Philippines and Indonesia and counted the number of bird species found only on these islands. We then used the species‐area relationship to calculate the number of species predicted to become globally extinct following deforestation on these islands. Next, we counted the numbers of insular southeast Asian endemic bird species considered threatened—i.e., those having “a high probability of extinction in the wild in the medium‐term future”—in the latest summary Red Data Book. The numbers of extinctions predicted from deforestation and the numbers of species actually threatened are strikingly similar. This suggests we can estimate the size of the extinction crisis in once‐forested regions from the extent of deforestation. The numbers of extinctions will be large. Without rapid and effective conservation, many of the species endemic to insular southeast Asia will soon be lost.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Apr 20, 1997
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