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More than 8,000 trees are now at risk of extinction in the Amazon rain forest
The worrying spectre of trees that could hold the secret to the cure of cancer and play host to the richest wildlife spectacular on the planet disappearing in our life times has been highlighted in a new study.

It reveals that between 36 and 57 per cent of Amazonian trees, that is as many as 8,690 different species, are likely to qualify as being globally threatened under IUCN Red List of Threatened Species criteria.

The new study, published tonight in the journal Science Advances, reached its shocking conclusions after comparing results of forest surveys across the Amazon with maps of current and projected deforestation to estimate how many tree species have been lost, and whereabouts.

A global global team made up of 158 researchers from 21 countries and involving Britain's University of East Anglia (UEA) carried out the study, which also concluded that Amazonian parks, reserves, and indigenous territories, if properly managed, can protect most of the threatened species.

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8,690 different species of trees in the Amazon are at threat of becoming extinct
Professor Carlos Peres from the UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, said: "Forests in the Amazon have been declining since the 1950s, but there was a poor understanding of how this has affected populations of individual species. Our research estimates that more than half of all species may face extinction.

"Fortunately protected areas and indigenous territories now cover over half of the Amazon basin, and likely contain sizable populations of most threatened species.

"But parks and reserves will only prevent extinction of threatened species if they suffer no further degradation. Amazonian forests and reserves still face a barrage of threats: from dam construction and mining to wildfires and droughts intensified by global warming."

And lead researcher Dr Nigel Pitman, of the Field Museum in Chicago, added: "We aren't saying that the situation in the Amazon has suddenly got worse for tree species.

We're just offering a new estimate of how tree species have been affected by historical deforestation, and how they'll be affected by forest loss in the future."

Experts say because the same destructive trends witnessed in Amazonia are impacting throughout the tropics, most of the planet's 40,000-plus tropical tree species are also at risk

William Laurance from James Cook University in Australia warns: "It's a battle we're going to see play out in our lifetimes.

Either we stand up and protect these critical parks and indigenous reserves, or deforestation will erode them until we see large-scale extinctions."

Source: Science Advances