Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

First research trip across western Amazon yields surprising results

08.07.2010
During his unprecedented expedition into the heart of the Amazon, Michigan State University geographer Bob Walker discovered surprising evidence that many of the Brazilian government’s efforts to protect the environment are working.

As expected, Walker and two fellow scientists – the first research team to travel a 700-mile stretch of the so-called Transamazon Highway in the western Amazon basin – confirmed the existence of illegal logging and gold-mining operations that threaten further damage to the world’s largest rainforest.

But the researchers also found massive areas of undisturbed forest in the form of nationally protected areas and indigenous reserves – as well as examples of where the government had halted unofficial road building, Walker said.

“We were kind of amazed by the number of good stories we actually saw,” said Walker, a veteran Amazon researcher whose work is funded by the National Science Foundation. “The environmental enforcement agencies in Brazil often do seem to be doing what they’re supposed to do.”

An estimated 17 percent of the Brazilian rainforest has been destroyed, much of it in the more developed eastern Amazon basin. Due to a government crackdown on illegal logging, Walker suspected loggers were moving such illegal operations westward – deep into the Amazon – but he needed to confirm it.

In late June, he made the 10-day trip along the western Transamazon Highway, by truck, with Brazilian colleagues Eugenio Arima, assistant professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Ritaumaria Pereira, MSU doctoral candidate. That section of the highway, from Itaituba to Labrea, is unpaved and unchartered – a wild stretch of jungle that Walker had assumed was becoming the new logging frontier.

It is, he said. The researchers witnessed fairly sizable logging operations, including sawmills and semi-trucks hauling out sawn wood. This is particularly significant, Walker said, because the western Amazon basin may very well represent the rainforest’s best hope to survive. Many experts believe too much deforestation could trigger a catastrophic change – or tipping point – that changes the Amazon from tropical forest to dry scrubland.

“The western Transamazon Highway has become the battleground for that tipping point,” Walker said.

Mining is another environmental threat to the region. A gold rush several years ago attracted thousands of people and tore up a section of rainforest. Walker and colleagues documented a gold mine in Apui where the mining machines had stopped due to a protracted court battle, although 200 to 300 people were still panning for gold by hand.

“If you get another huge gold rush into that region you could set up this tidal wave of demand for land,” Walker said. “That’s something to be concerned about.”

But the biggest surprise of the trip was witnessing multiple examples of how the government’s conservation efforts are working, Walker said. Driving through the Amazon National Park, he said he encountered dense, plush jungle – refuting critics’ claims that protected areas in the Amazon are nothing but “paper parks,” or parks only on paper.

The researchers also were encouraged by the existence of indigenous reserves – land set aside for native peoples, as opposed to potentially harmful development. “There were Indian villages along significant stretches of the Transamazon Highway,” Walker said.

And then there was the instance of a village mayor allowing loggers to come in and start building a road that would have connected the western Amazon basin to developed areas to the south, potentially creating an environmentally-devastating corridor of growth. But the federal government shut the road down before that could happen, Walker said.

The research supports a recent scientific study led by Walker that contends Brazil’s conservation efforts – even with the prevalence of illegal logging – are extensive enough to ultimately protect the Amazon. That study, funded by NASA, was based on three years of atmospheric computer modeling.

Walker said he’s no “apologist for development” and that he “doesn’t want to glad-hand the private sector and say the pathway to a brilliant future is the absence of regulation. We saw what can happen there with the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Ultimately, he said, the answer lies somewhere in the middle – that is, sustainable growth that protects both the environment and the livelihoods and culture of Brazil’s citizens.

“There seems to be an emerging Brazilian will to fulfill the intentions of protected areas,” Walker said. “There are still many environmental concerns, and we certainly can’t say the battle’s won and we can all go home and pat ourselves on the back. But one thing they’re not doing is giving people a complete license to deforest the Amazon.”

Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.

Andy Henion | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.msu.edu

Further reports about: Amazon basin Brazilian MSU Transamazon conservation efforts

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

nachricht Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut

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: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Treating arthritis with algae

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Witnessing turbulent motion in the atmosphere of a distant star

23.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>