Most people know the Amazon rain forest as one dense, gigantic forest – and when viewed from the air, it does indeed seem to be one contiguous ecosystem. But in fact, what is commonly recognized as the Amazon rainforest is actually comprised of dozens of ecologically distinctive regions. Logging and climate change threaten to reduce the size of the Amazon rainforest by 50% by the year 2030 if trends continue as they are – but that could mean that some of these distinct, diverse regions – home to plants and animals found nowhere else – could be 100% destroyed.
To better map these regions as parts of the whole, and to help sway policymakers against wiping out entire ecosystems within the greater rainforest, scientists have turned to a process called Chemical Mapping to separate regions by recognizing distinct tree species, who tend only to live in specific regions of the rainforest. The trees tend also to determine what flora and fauna live in a given region. Every tree has a unique chemical signature that can be detected using laser-guided spectroscopy with chemical mapping techniques. The results of the chemical mapping concluded that there 36 unique types of identifiable forest within the Amazon rainforest, all of which can be divided into 6 groups. These groups are based on their topography and geography. This knowledge allows conservationists to try and protect the most endangered regions first as well as show the impact of logging, illegal mining, and climate change on the entire ecosystem.
You should read more here, it’s a very interesting read from Megan at Schooled By Science and shows how technological advancements both improve our understanding of complex ecosystems and help us better defend them by appealing to policy makers in a way that makes sense to them.