A bushfire is burning in a deforested part of the Atlantic Forest.

A bushfire is burning in a deforested part of the Atlantic Forest.

The South American Atlantic Rainforest was once home to a "lush … megadiverse" of flora and fauna, according to ecologist Juliano Bogoni. In an article published in the journal PLoS One on September 25, Bogoni and his colleagues report that the collision of the forest with humans has dramatically cut through mammalian populations over the last 500 years.

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"We documented thousands of local extermination," writes Bogoni, the newspaper's lead author and currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, in an e-mail.

Stretching from the coastline to mountains in southeastern Brazil, the tropical Atlantic rainforest has shrunk from 425,000 square miles to 55,000 square miles after people cleared away the trees for timber and agriculture and made room for human settlements. The loss and fragmentation of habitat associated with relentless hunting have reduced the numbers of many mammal species, especially large and medium-sized mammal species, and biologists have taken note of dozens of studies in parts of the Atlantic Rainforest.

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