December 16, 2012

Source of some Amazon trees over 8 million years old

Published in the December 2012 edition of Ecology and Evolution, this new genetic analysis undertaken by Dick and Eldredge looked at the age of 12 widely distributes Amazon tree species and found that 9 of these has been around since the Pliocene Epoch (over 2.5 million years ago) and 7 dated to the Miocene Epoch (5.6 million years ago) and that 3 were over 8 million years old.

This evidence suggests that Amazon tree species have been able to survive warmer periods in past epochs and are therefore more likely than previously thought to be able to survive a climate warming during this and perhaps the next century. Interestingly, global temperatures predicted under a highest carbon emissions scenario by the IPCC (the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) are roughly similar to those of the Miocene Epoch.

The authors warn governments and environmentalists not to be taken off guard however, since there are significant present threats from mining, logging and expanding agricultural frontiers in the Amazon.

“Species will not move as freely in today’s Amazon as they did in previous warm periods, when there was no human influence. Similarly, today’ climate change is extremely fast, making comparisons with slower changes in the past difficult”, explained one of the studies authors.


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