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Do we need to devalue Amazonia and other large tropical forests?

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Abstract

Attempts to determine global priorities for conservation and studies aimed at highlighting the conservation value of one continental region over another often devalue specific regions. Amazonia has been a particular recipient of this treatment in a number of recent studies. We suggest that this type of approach is not necessary at this scale, and we argue that the consequences could be devastating for the largest forests of the world. Among our concerns about the treatment of these forests (Amazonia, the Congo Basin and New Guinea) is that there seems to be a lack of appreciation for, or sufficient study of, important biogeographic subdivisions within these regions. In Amazonia, the south-eastern portion of the basin (the Belém/Pará region) has not been considered a global conservation priority, despite the fact that it is experiencing by far the highest deforestation rates. Parsimony Analyses of Endemicity and genetic data suggest that many Amazonian forest taxa are comprised of numerous regionally distinct units, and this may also be true in other large tropical forests. Such patterns need to be documented for adequate conservation of tropical biodiversity, but this might not happen if these regions are not recognized as priorities for conservation at a global scale.

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