, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 609-623
Date: 11 Aug 2009

Tropical Timber Rush in Peruvian Amazonia: Spatial Allocation of Forest Concessions in an Uninventoried Frontier

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Land-use allocation has important implications for the conservation and management of tropical forests. Peru’s forestry regime has recently been reformed and more than 7 million ha has been assigned as forest concessions. This potentially has a drastic impact on the land-use practices and species composition of the assigned areas. Nevertheless, the environmental variation found within the concessions and the process applied to delimit them are poorly studied and documented. Thus, it is difficult to estimate the biological impacts of forestry activities in concessions or plan them sustainably. This paper reveals the characteristics of the current concession allocation in Loreto, Peruvian Amazonia, using environmental and access-related variables and compares the concessions to other major land-use assignments. The work draws on a number of data sets describing land-use, ecosystem diversity, and fluvial network in the region. According to our data, certain environment types such as relatively fertile Pebas soils are overrepresented in the concessions, while others, like floodplain forests, are underrepresented in comparison to other land-use assignments. Concessions also have less anthropogenic disturbance than other areas. Furthermore, concessions are located on average further from the river network than the other land-use assignments studied. We claim that forest classification based on productivity, soil fertility, accessibility, and biodiversity patterns is an achievable long-term goal for forest authorities in Peru, and in many other tropical countries. We present a rough design of a geographic information system incorporating environmental, logging, and access-related data that could be applied to approach this goal in Peru.