Jose Sabino

Website shows size and importance of Brazilian biodiversity for the world

Read about the website that offers didactic information on tropical and marine terrestrial biomes around the planet, the participation of Brazilian biomes in a global context, and the relevance of the Amazon in this scenario.

Executive summary

  • The presented results were obtained through knowledge synthesis, which brings together information already existing in large databases with other scientific platforms and makes new analyses.
  • The genetic and ecological data bank of natural ecosystems may bring forward new pathways and solutions to numerous current problems.
  • The survival capacity of Amazonian plants on poor soils, and the ones in the Cerrado, which can withstand droughts, are examples of the solutions that the Brazilian biodiversity can contribute to science and agriculture.
  • The site can support educators and promoters on presenting the importance and dimension of the biodiversity in the tropics.
  • Brazil is home to 12% of the world’s plant species, 12% of mammals and 24% of fish.

More than three-quarters of all species of amphibians, land mammals, freshwater and marine fish, ants, and plants live in the tropical regions of the planet. And Brazil holds an impressive contribution to this number: it is home to 12% of the world’s plant species, 12% of mammals, and 24% of fish species. These numbers, which are the result of efforts from Brazilian and foreign scientists, are gathered in a website that the Sustainable Amazon Network (SAN), with the support of Ambiental Media, presented to the public audience on June 29th, the International Day of the Tropics.

With the goal of connecting science to journalism, the new website informs about research results from the SAN, which is a research consortium that involves Brazilian and foreign institutions. The collected information in the form of texts, images, and infographics, presents in a didactic and accessible way an overview of the tropical terrestrial and marine biomes on the planet, the function of Brazilian biomes in the global context, the relevance of the Amazon in this scenario, and the threats to the conservation of the Brazilian biodiversity.

“The six Brazilian biomes are of extraordinary relevance to the world,” says biologist Joice Ferreira, a researcher at Embrapa Amazônia Oriental, one of the coordinating institutions of the SAN. “The Amazon has 1,385 bird species; the Cerrado has 1,127; and the Atlantic Forest has 1,015. All those biomes are important, either because of the great number of species or because of their uniqueness, which we call endemism” explains the scientist. The added value of the platform is to make these numbers available in an organized, accessible and attractive way for the whole society.

A new perspective

The data on the hyper-diversity page are the results of knowledge synthesis studies. This work involves bringing together existing information in large databases and other scientific platforms and making new analyses or extracting different parameters. In this case, to answer the question about Brazil's contribution to global biodiversity.

"The growing publication and development of studies on the local biodiversity of tropical ecosystems allows us to perform knowledge syntheses, which are researches that aggregate results from previous studies to answer questions on a macro scale," contextualizes Filipe França, a researcher at Lancaster University, England.

Each year, between 15,000 and 19,000 species are documented by science. "When scientists discover a new species, they open doors to a world of other related data," says Jos Barlow, from the Federal University of Lavras (UFLA), who also works at Lancaster University.

The genetic and ecological bank of natural ecosystems, adds the researcher, is of high value and can indicate paths and solutions for numerous current problems, such as new medicines or genes that can help in the adaptation of cultivated species.

Useful and inspiring

By browsing through the hyper-diversity site, it is possible to get the dimension of the world's biodiversity and Brazil's role in this scenario. "It puts into perspective what is at stake when we talk about biodiversity loss in Brazil," warns journalist Thiago Medaglia, founder of Ambiental Media, a partner of the SAN.

The information present in the texts, photos and infographics have their own and complementary narratives, as explained by the journalist. He says that the graphic material can be used by communication professionals and teachers in their projects. "It's useful data that doesn't get outdated quickly. It is important to invest in spreading the word to educators, to public schools, about what the tropics region is, why it is so important and at the same time so fragile," he adds.

The platform's content goes beyond science and data journalism: it brings elements of art produced by renowned professionals. "We mix elements in this project. For example: a literary text by Ronaldo Ribeiro, who was editor-in-chief of National Geographic, combined with images by nature photographer João Marcos Rosa. It is a project that tries to inspire through beauty and poetry. Science is also an inspiration, and nothing is more inspiring than Brazil's biodiversity", says Medaglia.

For him, the site also intends to preserve the feeling of belonging to nature in the Brazilian population. "Brazilians have a pride in nature that is disparaging and distant from it, and we need to get closer to this natural wealth, which is the soul of Brazil. Science, journalism, photography, all of these are possible ways for this reconnection", believes the journalist.

Research network

The hyper-diversity page will be updated as the research generates new data and analyses. "The Sustainable Amazon Network has a new project, Synergize, and we already have analyses in progress, specifically for the Amazon," reports Ferreira, coordinator of the project.

Synergize is part of CNPq's Center for Synthesis in Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (Sinbiose) and is also responsible for creating the hyper-diversity platform. The focus of the project is to understand the integrity of biodiversity in the entire Brazilian Amazon. "Hence, the importance of initiatives like Sinbiose and projects like Synergize is to help us understand the main threats and to propose solutions to maintain biodiversity in tropical regions," adds Filipe França, from Lancaster University.

"The project has established one of the most extensive research networks and is creating one of the largest databases of information on Amazonian biodiversity," says Joice. It has 30 researchers and has already established a network of 337 scientists from 150 institutions in Brazil and around the world, who collaborate with data on the woody vegetation, terrestrial fauna and aquatic ecosystems of the Amazon in more than 11,500 study plots in the region. For vegetation research, Synergize relies on partnerships with international databases, such as Forestplots and the Amazon Tree Diversity Network.

The Sustainable Amazon Network, created in 2009, is a research network that generates information and results on the impact of land use on biodiversity and the forest in the Amazon to support institutions and public policies towards the sustainable development of the region. The SAN is coordinated by researchers from Embrapa Amazônia Oriental and Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz of the University of São Paulo - Esalq-USP (Brazil); Lancaster University, Oxford University and Manchester Metropolitan University (United Kingdom); Stockholm Environment Institute/SEI (Sweden).

Content partner

Embrapa is the Brazilian Agriculture Research Corporation. You can find the original article here.