Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New highways drive accelerating deforestation in Amazonia


In today’s issue of Science (21 May 2004), a team of U.S. and Brazilian scientists show that the rate of forest destruction has accelerated significantly in Brazilian Amazonia since 1990. The team asserts, moreover, that Amazonian deforestation will likely continue to increase unless the Brazilian government alters its aggressive plans for highway and infrastructure expansion.

"The recent deforestation numbers are just plain scary," said William Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, the study’s lead author. "During the last two years nearly 12 million acres of rainforest have been destroyed--that’s equivalent to about 11 football fields a minute."

Deforestation has risen most sharply in the southern and eastern parts of the Amazon, where rainforests are more seasonal and thus more easily burned. "Since 2002, forest loss has shot up by nearly 50% in the states of Pará, Rondônia, Mato Grosso, and Acre," said co-author Ana Albernaz of the Goeldi Museum in Belém, Brazil. "Plant and wildlife species indigenous to these areas are being severely threatened."

The rising deforestation is directly linked to Brazilian development policies, says the team. In 2000, Brazil announced the largest infrastructure-expansion plan in the history of the Amazon. The plan, formerly called ’Avança Brasil’ (Advance Brazil), could ultimately involve over US$40 billion in investments in new highways, roads, power lines, gas lines, hydroelectric reservoirs, railroads, and river-channelization projects.

These huge projects will criss-cross the basin, say the team members, providing greatly increased access for loggers and colonists to pristine tracts of forest. "In the past, such projects have led to striking increases in illegal deforestation, logging, mining, and hunting activities," said Heraldo Vasconcelos of the Federal University of Uberlândia in Brazil, another co-author of the study.

The key drivers of increasing Amazon-forest loss, say the authors, are rising deforestation and land speculation along new highways and planned highway routes, and the dramatic growth of Amazonian cattle ranching and industrial soybean farming. "Soybean farms cause some forest clearing directly," said co-author Philip Fearnside of Brazil’s National Institute for Amazonian Research in Manaus. "But they have a much greater impact on deforestation by consuming cleared land, savanna, and transitional forests, thereby pushing ranchers and slash-and-burn farmers ever deeper into the forest frontier. Soybean farming also provides a key economic and political impetus for new highways and infrastructure projects, which accelerate deforestation by other actors."

Anticipating public alarm about the worsening deforestation trends, the Brazilian government recently announced new measures designed to slow Amazon forest loss. These measures include increased satellite monitoring of deforestation, and the involvement of additional government ministries--not just the Ministry of Environment--in efforts to reduce illegal deforestation and forest burning. "If implemented effectively, the government plans, along with the establishment of new protected areas in Amapa, Amazonas, and Acre, would be a move in the right direction," said co-author Leandro Ferreira of the Goeldi Museum in Brazil.

But the new measures do not go nearly far enough, say the team members, because they fail to address one of the most critical root causes of Amazonian deforestation: the alarming proliferation of new highways and infrastructure projects that penetrate deep into the heart of the Amazon rainforest. According to team-leader William Laurance, "If Brazil doesn’t curtail the expansion of new highways and transportation projects, the net result will not only be further increases in Amazon forest destruction, but fragmentation of the surviving forests on an unprecedented spatial scale."

Bill Laurance | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>