The fate of the Amazonian areas of endemism

José Maria Cardoso Da Silva, Anthony B. Rylands, Gustavo A.B. Da Fonseca

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

211 Scopus citations


Amazonia is the largest and most diverse of the tropical forest wilderness areas. Recent compilations indicate at least 40,000 plant species, 427 mammals, 1294 birds, 378 reptiles, 427 amphibians, and around 3,000 fishes. Not homogeneous in its plant and animal communities, it is an archipelago of distinct areas of endemism separated by the major rivers. Biogeographic studies of terrestrial vertebrates have identified eight such areas in the Brazilian Amazon: Tapajós, Xingú, and Belém (all in Brazil); Rondônia (mostly in Brazil); and portions of Napo, Imeri, Guiana, and Inambari. They range in size from more than 1.7 million km2 (Guiana) to 199,211 km2 (Belém). Forest loss in each ranges from 2% to 13% of their area, except for Xingu (nearly 27% lost) and Belém, (now only about one-third of its forest remains). Napo, Imeri, and Guiana have >40% of their lands in protected areas, Inambari, Rondônia, Tapajós, and Xingu between 20% and 40%, and Belém <20%. Strictly protected areas in each, however, are limited - from 0.28% to 11.7%. Areas of endemism should be the basic geographic unit for the creation of conservation corridors of contiguous protected areas, providing broad connectivity on both margins and within the interior of areas of endemism. The aim is to build a conservation system that is large and resilient enough to circumvent global changes, accommodate improved living standards for local populations, conserve biodiversity, and safeguard the ecological services forests and rivers provide. Elected leaders are now realizing that the traditional economy based on cattle ranching and logging is unsustainable. Deforestation proceeds apace, but the federal government is implementing the Protected Areas Programme for Amazonia, which seeks to protect 50 million ha, and a number of state governments are now active in creating protected areas and incorporating appropriate conservation measures in their development plans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)689-694
Number of pages6
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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