Our review clearly demonstrates that tropical ecosystems currently face a multitude of threats, alert Dr. Jos Barlow

Publicação: 12 de September de 2018

Finding sustainable solutions to the tropical biodiversity crisis is complex, and requires both local and global action. Local research capacity is also key, as effective solutions are context dependent

I also think that wealthy countries have an important role to play in supporting tropical countries improve their research and governance capacities

Apparently, the Tropics are in trouble. This is what a study conducted by a group of scientists led by Dr. Jos Barlow, of Lancaster University, published in the journal Nature has revealed. According to the article “The future of hyperdiverse tropical ecosystems, the tropics are experiencing a mixture of man-made threats. These threats are increasing the risk of extinction for many species. In the opinion of Dr. Jos Barlow, Brazil has a unique role in the future of the tropics, because it is one of the few tropical countries with strong research capabilities. According to the author, to prevent this bleak future, investment is crucial.

To learn more about it, check out the full interview with Dr. Jos Barlow.

BSTM: In your opinion, which are currently the main problems affecting the Tropics? Why?

Dr. Jos Barlow: The key finding from our review is that there is no single problem affecting the tropics – rather, our review clearly demonstrates that tropical ecosystems currently face a multitude of threats, from local pressures such as deforestation, logging or overfishing and global pressures such as climate change and increasing demand for agricultural products sources in the tropics.

BSTM: Do you believe that climate change can aggravate diseases in the Tropics? Why?

Dr. Jos Barlow: I’m an ecologist and not an epidemiologist, so there are many more qualified people to respond to this (especially in Brazil where FioCruz and others lead the way). But as many invertebrate vectors of tropical diseases respond to climatic variables, it seems very likely that climate change will alter disease transmission.

BSTM: Is it corret to affirm poverty is also a factor / threat to the appearance and spread of diseases in the Tropics?

Dr. Jos Barlow: As above regarding epidemiology. But of course poverty influences the ability of tropical countries to respond to environmental and social issues – including diseases.

BSTM: Weak governance and research capacity are also complicating the long-term perspectives for tropical biodiversity, unless urgent measures are undertaken. Could you talk about this?

Dr. Jos Barlow: Finding sustainable solutions to the tropical biodiversity crisis is complex, and requires both local and global action. Local action will only be effective in the longer term if governance structures are able to maintain any policy changes – it is relatively easy to design sustainable practices that look good on paper, but the real challenge is in the implementation.  Local research capacity is also key, as effective solutions are context dependent. You cannot simply implement a policy just because it works well in developed countries, or in another tropical region – each region has its own unique mix of people and nature, and local research capacity is key to understand these local contexts and develop environmentally sustainable and socially-just solutions.

BSTM: In your opinion, how are we going to address the urgent environmental challenges facing the tropics?

Dr. Jos Barlow: It won’t be easy – and there is no single solution. So we have to adopt multiple solutions. Global problems can only be resolved through international collaboration – and we need to continue to encourage governments to limit climate change, and improve collaboration between countries to make global trade more sustainable. I also think that wealthy countries have an important role to play in supporting tropical countries improve their research and governance capacities – we cannot trade sustainably with countries without contributing to that.

BSTM: What is needed to avoid this bleak future?

Dr. Jos Barlow: Investment and collaborative action are key.

BSTM: Would you like to add anything you find important and that was not approached above?

Dr. Jos Barlow: I think Brazil has a unique role to play in the future of the tropics as it is one of the few tropical countries with a strong research capacity. I hope this continues.

BSTM: Finishing, could you talk a little about your work and your experiences?Dr. Jos Barlow: My own tropical experiences come from 20 years of research in the Brazilian Amazon, where I have witnessed first hand the devastating consequences of severe droughts and deforestation, which combined to bring about wildfires. My ongoing research is in the Santarem region, where one million hectares of forest burned in the 2015-16 El Nino event. These wildfires brought about enormous losses for local people and biodiversity, but can only be prevented by joined-up action involving many different sectors.