by Caitlin Douglas
The plight of the Amazon is not a new story and although it may no longer be in the headlines recently released photos return the spotlight to this region. Six years ago Maslin et al. stated that although the Amazon has withstood huge climate shifts in the past, the forest has not previously been exposed to the dry climate predicted for the region. The situation is further complicated by the speed of climate change which is too fast to allow for the large-scale shift of these forests to the necessary higher precipitation areas, and, even if this migration was possible these regions are already occupied by human land-uses. The Amazon is headed into uncharted territory, and from the perspective of climate change the future existence of the Amazon is precarious. Depressingly the authors also describe the more immediate threat to the region – land clearance and degradation. Large conspicuous parts of the forest have been cleared for pasture land and soya-bean agriculture, and a less visible but still important threat exists from legal and illegal deforestation. These activities lead to a declining wildlife population due to the associated increase in bushmeat and intensive hunting.
Today, illegal forestry is still a major issue and is threatening not only biodiversity but also local indigenous groups. Survival International, a charity dedicated to the rights of tribal people, recently released pictures of a remote Brazilian tribe whose livelihood is threatened by illegal logging. Widespread illegal logging in Peru is pushing Peruvian tribes closer to the Peru-Brazil border and it is feared that they will soon come into conflict with the isolated Brazilian tribe. Survival International hopes that these photos will serve as a reminder of their existence, that they are a thriving society, and that action against illegal forestry in Peru is urgently needed to protect the tribe’s future viability. The Amazon is an essential component of the global biosphere-atmosphere system and as a result its continuance is important on many scales. We now have a timely reminder that for people living their lives in the heart of the Amazon the threat is already at a critical level.
Read the journal article: Maslin, M., Malhi, Y., Phillips, O., Cowling, S. 2005. New views on an old forest: assessing the longevity, resilience and future of the Amazon rainforest. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 30(4): 477–499.
Read the BBC news article: New images of remote Brazil tribe
Have a look at the charity: Survival International