We are a multi-disciplinary network of scientists working together to understand how human-driven and climate-associated disturbances affect Amazonia’s aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity.

The Amazon forest is one of the Earth’s most important ecosystems: covering nearly 7 million km², it accounts for c. 50% of all remaining rainforests on the planet, while housing more than 1300 species of birds, 2700 species of freshwater fish and an unknown number of invertebrate species. The Amazon River Basin, the world’s largest in area and discharge, is responsible for 20% of all the freshwater that reaches the oceans and influences the supply of water resources and precipitation at local and continental scales. For example, it provides c. 70% of rainfall to the Rio de la Plata Basin – one of the world’s most important agricultural regions. 

Amazonia’s importance is, however, undermined by multiple climatic and local human-driven disturbances. At the local/regional scale, forests continue to be lost at an alarming rate: between 1998 and 2018, around 436.620 km2 of primary forests were lost in the Brazilian Amazon – an area almost five times as large as Portugal. The remaining forests are under imminent threat from human-driven disturbances (e.g. illegal logging, understory fires), and broader stressors such as climate change and extreme climatic events (e.g. droughts and heatwaves).

All of these disturbances, on their own and in combination, jeopardize not only the Amazonian forests but also lead to widespread degradation of freshwater ecosystems – which are also threatened by overfishing, pollution and construction of dams and waterways. Understanding how Amazonian ecosystems respond to local and climatic disturbances – and their interactions – is, therefore, essential to achieving global conservation targets and sustainable development goals. 

We have three initial scientific questions:

    1. What is the distribution and which factors best predict the existing sample efforts on Amazonian biodiversity?
    2. What are the impacts and spatial scale of local human-driven disturbances on tropical terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems?
    3. What is the potential for, and trajectories of, recovery from degradation in distinct ecosystem components?

We are answering these questions by gathering community-level datasets on ants, birds, dung beetles, trees, freshwater fish, insects and macrophytes previously surveyed across the Brazilian Amazon. Our work addresses prior limitations by adopting a terrestrial-freshwater region-wide approach and incorporating a broad range of biodiversity groups. 

By documenting broad ecological patterns in tropical biodiversity, and identifying the factors that drive research effort distribution in the Amazon, we hope to produce compelling scientific evidence to inform and improve environmental practices and policies in the Brazilian Amazon. 

See JOIN US for guiduelines on how to join the SYNERGIZE Network.