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August 13 2013

How extinction of five-tonne sloths slows up growth along the Amazon


Vast regions of the Amazon are growing more slowly than they were several thousand years ago because they lack the fertilising effect provided by South America’s distinctive “mega-fauna” – the very large mammals that went extinct soon after the arrival of humans.

A study of how soil nutrients are distributed within the Amazon basin has revealed there is a dearth of vital minerals such as phosphorus because large mammals no longer roam the region to fertilise the soil with their dung.

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