Bird Populations Recover in the Amazon

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Over 1,300 bird species can be found in the Amazon.  From hyperactive hummingbirds whizzing through the air, to colorful toucans eating fruit from the trees, the Amazon is characterized by a number of fantastic species found nowhere else in the world. 

Unfortunately, clear-cutting and other human activities resulting in deforestation threaten the survival of Amazonian birds.  As the rainforest decreases in size, so does precious habitat.  In Peru, analysis of satellite and field surveys suggest that gold mines in the Amazon have expanded 400 percent in less than 15 years, resulting in mass deforestation.  In Brazil, extensive areas of rainforest have been clear-cut due to logging and agricultural activities. 

Much of the land that is deforested due to human activities is abandoned after 5 to 10 years, resulting in a patches of old forest and disturbed lands.  The Amazon now contains vast areas of secondary forest, or forests regrown after major disturbances.  According to a study in The Auk, birds that have been trapped in small areas surrounded by disturbed lands have begun to move between areas of primary growth and secondary growth. 

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From 1992 to 2011, data was accumulated as part of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, to determine how long it would take for the population of certain bird species to increase to the pre-deforestation levels by taking advantage of secondary forests.  Although there is significant variation between species, the average bird species require 26 years to recover. 

This means there is hope. 

Although the destruction of the Amazon rainforest is devastating, if we combine conservation efforts with programs to rehabilitate disturbed areas, resilient bird species may be able to recover their former populations. 

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