Facing strong pressures and threats, half of Amazon is at riskDecember 4, 2012 by Sally Farhat Kassab
A deforestation analysis shows that between the years 2000 and 2010, around 240,000 km2 of Amazonian rainforest was destroyed. The threats faced by Amazonia indicate that forest landscapes, socio-environmental diversity and fresh water are fast being replaced by degraded landscapes and drier, less diverse open savannahs.
Civil society organizations and research institutions that form part of the Amazonian Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG) today launched a 68-page book of maps and data called Amazonia Under Pressure. Like the other products produced by RAISG, the Atlas’ main objective is to move beyond fragmented views of Amazonia and provide a panorama of the threats experienced by the region as a whole.
The analysis shows that in one decade, 240,000 km2 of Amazonian rainforest was destroyed. To put this in perspective, this equals double the amount of rainforest cover in Ecuador, or the entire landmass of the United Kingdom. The Atlas warns that should the threats identified in projects for roads, oil and gas drilling, mining and hydroelectric dams actually be built in the near future, up to a half of the currently standing Amazon rainforest may vanish.
“If all the overlapping economic interests become a reality over the next few years, Amazonia will become a savannah with islands of forest,” says RAISG’s general coordinator, Beto Ricardo, from Instituto Socioambiental (Brazil).
The threats show that the forest landscapes, socio-environmental diversity and fresh water are being replaced by degraded landscapes and drier and less diverse open savannahs. The RAISG maps show an arc of deforestation spanning from Brazil to Bolivia, an area of pressure on water resources, oil drilling in Andean Amazonia and an outer ring of mining.
The Atlas covers a set of six threats to Amazonia over the last decade – roads, oil and gas, hydroelectric dams, mining, deforestation and hot spots – analyzed by five different territories: Amazonia, the Amazon river basin in each country, Protected Natural Areas, River Basins and Indigenous Lands. These analyses are made in 55 maps, 61 tables, 23 graphs, 16 boxes and 73 photographs, organized in theme-based chapters.
RAISG was not able to include the analysis of illegal mining, logging and farming, due to lack of quality information capable of being transferred to a map for all the countries of Amazonia. When these factors are included, RAISG fears the overall deforestation situation is likely to be even worse.
This publication is a contribution from civil society to the democratic debate on the pressures now being faced by the Amazon, particularly on deforestation, which is being evaluated by national governments and at the intergovernmental level in the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO).
The Amazonia presented in this publication is a region of high socio-environmental diversity undergoing rapid change. It covers a total of 7.8 million km2, around 12 macro-basins and 158 sub-basins, administrated by 4969 municipalities, 68 departments/states/provinces in eight countries: Bolivia (6.2%), Brazil (64.3%), Colombia (6.2%), Ecuador (1.5%), Guyana (2.8%), Peru (10.1%), Suriname (2.1%) and Venezuela (5.8%), as well as French Guiana (1.1%). Amazonia is home to around 33 million people, including 385 indigenous peoples, some of them living in ‘isolation.’ There are 610 national protected areas and 2344 indigenous lands, occupying 45% of Amazonia’s land surface, not including the owners of small, medium and large rural properties, companies of various kinds, and research and development institutions, as well as religious and civil society organizations.
About RAISG, a regional initiative promoting access to information and mapping future challenges
Since its founding, RAISG’s main objective has been to stimulate and facilitate cooperation between institutions that already work with georeferenced socio-environmental information in the eight countries of Amazonia and French Guyana. Today, the network has 11 associated institutions (http://raisg.socioambiental.org/instituciones). RAISG’s proposal is to create a stimulating environment for long-term, accumulative and decentralized development, which enables the compilation, construction and publication of information and analyses on the contemporary dynamic of (Pan)Amazonia.
The aim of this atlas is to consolidate a wide-ranging and inclusive regional overview that extends beyond Brazilian Amazonia to include the Andean environment and Guyanese Amazonia. It is a historic attempt to analyze the question of deforestation across Amazonia using a standardized methodology.
The work behind the publication required various face-to-face meetings in São Paulo, Lima, Belém, Bogotá and Quito from 2009 to the present and was supported by institutions such as the Norwegian Rainforest Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Avina Foundation and the Skoll Foundation.
One of the main challenges for the institutions involved in RAISG will be to calculate the total deforestation up to 2000, the year taken as the baseline for the first edition of Amazonia Under Pressure.
Currently RAISG is developing a work plan for 2013-2015, which includes: frameworks for maintaining, updating, developing, distributing and analyzing the data on pressures and threats, expanding work themes, establishing cooperation agreements with other networks to generate products in conjunction and creating sub-regional networks.
Data available via web services
The data obtained by the network’s institutions for this publication can be accessed via web services (http://raisg.socioambiental.org/gisweb).