By Paulette Cully
In a 2005 article in the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, entitled “New views on an old forest: assessing the longevity, resilience and future of the Amazon rainforest” the authors Maslin et al. describe how the Amazon rainforest originated in the late Cretaceous period. This means that the forest has been a permanent feature of South America for at least 55 million years, surviving the high temperatures of the Early Eocene, the gradual cooling during the Cenozoic and the drier and lower carbon dioxide levels of the Quaternary glacial periods. Now, the forest is entering an uncertain future due to climate change with a predicted more arid tropical climate, which the forest has not experienced before.
In addition, the forest is facing anthropogenic destruction with an estimated 232,000 square miles of Amazon rainforest having been destroyed since 1970. However, a radical and forward-looking deal has been struck between Ecuador and the UN whereby the richer countries pay Ecuador $3.6billion not to exploit the Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha oil block in the eastern fringe of the Yasuni national park. The object of the deal is to preserve the biodiversity of that part of the Amazon forest and to prevent climate change emissions from the oil. Under the agreement, the oil and the timber in Yasuni will never be exploited. Described as a “fantastic project to combat global warming” Ecuador’s President Correa ,first visualised the Yasuni Initiative in 2007 as a way to resolve the OPEC country’s conflicting aims of growing its economy and preserving a national treasure. As a result the project could stop an estimated 407 million metric tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere and may help to reduce the predicted effects that climate change could have on the Amazon forest.
Click here to read Maslin et al. (2005), New views on an old forest: assessing the longevity, resilience and future of the Amazon rainforest, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Vol. 30, Issue 4, Pages 477-499.