Birds Are Declining in a Supposedly ‘Untouched’ Region of Amazon Rainforest

Bird numbers and diversity are dropping even within the best-protected forests, study finds. The scientists' only explanation is climate change. 

[2 June 2021] In 2008, Philip Stouffer found himself befuddled in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. It had been nearly 20 years since his first visit to the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (BDFFP), a long-term study of rainforest fragmentation based at a protected 37,000-acre portion of the Brazilian forest about 50 miles north of the city of Manaus. His surroundings were as lush as as they had always been, and old, tall trees testified to the ecosystem’s good health. Like in previous visits, he expected to spot some of the Amazon’s most elusive birds. But that wasn’t the case. “Rare birds were harder to find than we anticipated,” Stouffer, a Louisiana State University biologist, says. He spent the next eight years trying to confirm his observation that the area's birdlife had changed and to explain why it was happening.

Recently published in Ecology Letters, Stouffer and 10 co-authors proved his suspicion right. By re-surveying sites that earlier scientists studied in the 1980s, they found that the observed populations of 21 bird species declined within the protected and insulated BDFFP section of the Amazon rainforest over the past 40 years. Nine species, all insect-eaters, declined by over 40 percent. And another 10 bird species became so rare they had to be excluded from the statistical analysis altogether.

...Go to Audubon Magazine for the rest of the story.