We are rainforest ecologists working to protect spider monkeys, Amazonian birds, and the rainforests they inhabit. Ask us anything!
Hi Reddit! We are Cristina and Jenna, tropical rainforest ecologists at Imperial College London working in Amazonian Brazil and Costa Rica. Ask us Anything!
We'll be answering your questions until 6 PM UK time / 1 PM Eastern time.
The planet is going through an unprecedented rate of species loss. Last year a United Nations report concluded as many as 1 million species are at risk of going extinct in the coming decades at a rate 1000 times higher because of human action.
The tropics are at the frontline of this crisis. They are home to 75 percent of all species and 40 percent of the human population, many of whom live in poverty and rely on working the land to make a living. We urgently need to find ways to combine biodiversity conservation with human welfare.
As tropical ecologists, we work with authorities such as the Brazilian government to advise on policy-change that seeks to avoid biodiversity extinction. To do this we need to understand what exactly is driving species to go extinct and what the impact their disappearance has on the environments they leave behind. With this information, we can identify critical thresholds for forest loss to further inform policy, and we plan ‘wildlife corridors’ to help species navigate around humans and our expanding tropical agriculture such as palm oil and teak plantations.
In Brazil, Cristina’s work led to the Brazilian government’s adoption of a 30 percent forest cover threshold across the country’s Atlantic Forest region. While in Costa Rica, Jenna has been part of a team setting up over 400 audio devices to record the sounds of the rainforest. We then used machine learning to pick out and track the calls of the forest’s endangered spider monkeys as well as getting a wider picture of local biodiversity loss.
During this AMA we’re happy to talk about the drivers of deforestation and how the resulting biodiversity loss plays out on the ground. We can discuss the limitations of reforestation solutions, and why you can’t ‘make up' for cutting down rainforest by planting trees elsewhere. Instead, we can discuss a more sustainable way forward which both preserves species and benefits local economies.
For more information
- Cristina talks about the forests of her homeland in São Paulo and how her work on it was adopted by the Brazilian government - https://www.timeshighereducation.com/people/interview-cristina-banks-leite
- You can read more about Jenna’s work in Costa Rica and listen to her rainforest recordings as part of this collaboration with art collective super/collider - https://www.super-collider.com/blog/2020/7/23/biodiverse-earth
- Read an Imperial news story on Cristina’s work on Amazonian bird species - https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/191163/birds-outside-their-comfort-zone-more/