The math is straightforward. If you are one of the species that the models estimate has a population of fewer than 1,000 individual trees in the Amazon, then the probability of finding you among all 390 billion trees in the basin is so infinitesimal that it’s hardly worth calculating. For a boots-on-the-ground example, a couple of months ago I was in a remote area of Peru where I spent practically every daylight hour surveying trees. In two weeks I looked at about 2,000 trees. According to the numbers in our paper, the chance that I encountered one of the rarest species is about one chance in 200,000.
A colleague of mine calls this our “dark biodiversity” problem. Just as the astrophysicists’ models tell them that half of all the matter in the universe is invisible to science, so our models seem to be telling us that a large portion of Amazonian biodiversity is invisible to science—that is, lives and dies at densities below our capacity to see it. The numbers are pretty unforgiving. If instead of two weeks in Peru I had stayed on for 20 years—no weekends, no holidays, no sick days, just tree after tree after tree—my odds would have improved to about 1 in 4,000.
(Source: Image—’Paradise 30′ by Thomas Struth 2014, Nautilus Magazine—In Our Nature Issue)