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I root for the Canopies - biodiversity amidst COPs and Cups

Agronomist, PhD in Ecology from the University of Stirling (UK). She studies the ecology of the Amazon rainforest. Titular researcher and former director of the Goeldi Museum. Counselor of the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC).

Ima Vieira

Translated by M. Annarry Tavares, Silvia Benchimol, Ewerton Branco (UFPA/ET-Multi)



Within the Amazonian biome are more than half of the world's remaining tropical forests. Systematic studies about this region have intensified since the creation of Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi in 1866, the creation of Instituto Agronômico do Norte (EMBRAPA, nowadays) in 1939, and Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA) in 1952. These Amazonian institutions kicked off a cycle of orderly and large-scale ecological knowledge about the region, which has underpinned recent discoveries about the functioning of the largest tropical forest in the world, where trees play a key role.

However, until recently, scientists still did not know about the number of trees, species, and in which territories each of them prevailed in the Amazon forest. The article “Hyperdominance in the Amazonian Tree Flora” (2013) tries to answer these questions and estimated in 16k the number of tree species and 390bi the number of trees that have a minimum trunk diameter (DAP) of 10cm existing in the Amazon, pointing that only 227 of the species are hiperdominant, summing up in total more than half of the 390bi of individual trees.

The researchers from the Goeldi Museum and from INPA also brought forward new essential discoveries about the importance of the originary peoples for the diversification of the Amazon forest. Studies about handling, sustainability, and diversification of the forests produced by A. Anderson, W. Ballée, D. Posey and C. Clement linked conservation with development and served as the basis both for the creation of extractive reserves and the discussion about the distribution of the benefits that ensue from the economic exploitation of the Amazonian socio-biodiversity. On a global scale, of the seven most important tropical products in terms of volume (coffee, tobacco, cotton, sugar, rubber, tea, and cocoa), three are Amazonian plants. This region is considered the original core of some of humanity’s most important plants, and throughout the long historical process of domestication, domesticated landscapes such as chestnut and açai groves were built.

It’s a general consensus within the scientific community that the Amazon is the key to the conservation of biodiversity and the regulation of the climate of the planet, making it relevant to understand the functionality and dynamics of the forest system as well as to construct inclusive, democratic, and sustainable development strategies. Brazil has already shown that it’s possible to comprehend the region and keep its destruction to a minimum by the means of powerful institutions, transversal public policies based on science, and the by strengthening of surveillance bodies. But what to do to protect biodiversity?

COP15 of the Biodiversity Convention (CDB), scheduled for this month in Montreal, will focus on supervising the finalization of the Global Mark of Biodiversity Post-2020. Since 2002, the members of CDB have entered a compromise of reducing the levels of biodiversity loss and improving goals and indicators about the usage and distribution of the benefits derived from biodiversity, but they have not been successful. Only two of the 22 proposed goals were reached. For a “Montreal Agreement” to happen, it’s necessary that political advances concerning a new pact, capable of slowing down the loss of species, occur.

With the advance of deforestation in the Amazon and the escalation of the risks to biodiversity, the weight on the participants’ shoulders in Montreal grows. The future of the planet’s biodiversity is at stake. Between COPs and Cups, I root for the Canopies!