Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 113–122 | Cite as

Mega-Development Trends in the Amazon: Implications for Global Change

  • William F. Laurance
Article

Abstract

This paper describes four global-change phenomena that are having major impacts on Amazonian forests. The first is accelerating deforestation and logging. Despite recent government initiatives to slow forest loss, deforestation rates in Brazilian Amazonia have increased from 1.1 million ha yr−1 in the early 1990s, to nearly 1.5 million ha yr−1 from 1992–1994, and to more than 1.9 million ha yr−1 from 1995–1998. Deforestation is also occurring rapidly in some other parts of the Amazon Basin, such as in Bolivia and Ecuador, while industrialized logging is increasing dramatically in the Guianas and central Amazonia.

The second phenomenon is that patterns of forest loss and fragmentation are rapidly changing. In recent decades, large-scale deforestation has mainly occurred in the southern and eastern portions of the Amazon — in the Brazilian states of Pará, Maranhāo, Rondônia, Acre, and Mato Grosso, and in northern Bolivia. While rates of forest loss remain very high in these areas, the development of major new highways is providing direct conduits into the heart of the Amazon. If future trends follow past patterns, land-hungry settlers and loggers may largely bisect the forests of the Amazon Basin.

The third phenomenon is that climatic variability is interacting with human land uses, creating additional impacts on forest ecosystems. The 1997/98 El Niño drought, for example, led to a major increase in forest burning, with wildfires raging out of control in the northern Amazonian state of Roraima and other locations. Logging operations, which create labyrinths of roads and tracks in forsts, are increasing fuel loads, desiccation and ignition sources in forest interiors. Forest fragmentation also increases fire susceptibility by creating dry, fire-prone forest edges.

Finally, recent evidence suggests that intact Amazonian forests are a globally significant carbon sink, quite possibly caused by higher forest growth rates in response to increasing atmospheric CO2 fertilization. Evidence for a carbon sink comes from long-term forest mensuration plots, from whole-forest studies of carbon flux and from investigations of atmospheric CO2 and oxygen isotopes. Unfortunately, intact Amazonian forests are rapidly diminishing. Hence, not only is the destruction of these forests a major source of greenhouse gases, but it is reducing their intrinsic capacity to help buffer the rapid anthropogenic rise in CO2.

Amazon Brazil deforestation carbon sink climate change climatic variability forest conservation habitat fragmentation logging tropical forests 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Abramovitz, J.: 1998, Taking a Stand: Cultivating a New Relationship with the World's Forests. World Watch Institute, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  2. Anon.: 1995, Japanese logging in Bolivia: An Analytical Review of the Operations of Industria Maderera Suto Ltd. and its Social and Environmental Impacts. Report by the Japan-Brazil Network, Rainforest Action Network, 26 April 1995.Google Scholar
  3. Anon.: 1997a, Controle sobre florestas exige a reforma do IBAMA. A Critica (Manaus, Brazil), 19 January 1997.Google Scholar
  4. Anon.: 1997b, A rain forest imperiled. Editorial, The New York Times, 15 October 1997.Google Scholar
  5. Anon.: 1997c, Malaysian loggers in the Amazon. Action Albert, Rainforest Action Network, 24 February 1997.Google Scholar
  6. Anon.: 1998a, NGOs press for more forest reserves. Inter-Press Service, 23 December 1998.Google Scholar
  7. Anon., 1998b, Brazil's rainforest plan under fire. Associated Press, 25 November 1998.Google Scholar
  8. Anon.: 1998c, House approves debt relief for tropical forest conservation. Associated Press, 19 March 1998.Google Scholar
  9. Bennett, E. L.: 1996, In: Effects of Logging on Wildlife in the Tropics (proceedings of a conference sponsored by BOLFOR [Bolivia] and Wildlife Conservation Society [New York]).Google Scholar
  10. Brasil, K.: 1996, Madeireiras asiáticas desrespeitam leis no AM, O Estado de S. Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, 14 August 1996.Google Scholar
  11. Brown, N.: 1998. Trends Ecol. Evol. 13, 41.Google Scholar
  12. Christie, M.: 1997, ‘Green groups frown as Brazil auctions off jungle,’ Reuters News Service, 4 August 1997.Google Scholar
  13. Cochrane, M. A., Schulze, M. D.: 1998, Conserv. Biol. 12, 948-950.Google Scholar
  14. de Cassia, R.: 1997, BR-174: FHC anuncia abertura de nova frontiera agricola no norte. Amazonas em Tempo (Manaus, Brazil), 25 June 1997.Google Scholar
  15. Dale, V. H., Pearson, S. M.: 1997, In: W. F. Laurance and R. O. Bierregaard, Jr., eds., Tropical Forest Remnants: Ecology, Management, and Conservation of Fragmented Communities. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 400-409.Google Scholar
  16. Enting, I. G., Trudinger, C. M., Francey, R. J.: 1995, Tellus 47B, 35-53.Google Scholar
  17. Epstein, J., Moore, L.: 1997, Far East goes deep south. Latin Trade Magazine, July 1997, pp. 61-66.Google Scholar
  18. Fan, S., Gloor, M., Mahlman, J., et al.: 1998, Science 282, 442-446.Google Scholar
  19. Fearnside, P. M.: 1987, Conserv. Biol. 1, 214-221.Google Scholar
  20. Fearnside, P. M. 1990, In: A. B. Anderson, ed. Alternatives to Deforestation: Towards Sustainable Use of the Amazonian Rain Forest. Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 235-251.Google Scholar
  21. Fearnside, P. M.: 1993, Ciencia Hoje 19, 6-8.Google Scholar
  22. Fearnside, P. M.: 1995, Environ. Conserv. 22, 7-19.Google Scholar
  23. Fearnside, P. M.: 1997a, Environ. Conserv. 24, 303-306.Google Scholar
  24. Fearnside, P. M.: 1997b, Mitigation Adapt. Strat. Global Change 2, 285-302.Google Scholar
  25. Fearnside, P. M., Leal-Filho, N.: In press. In: R. O. Bierregaard, Jr., et al., eds. Lessons from Amazonia: The Ecology and Conservation of a Fragmented Forest. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.Google Scholar
  26. Ferreira, L. V., Laurance, W. F.: 1997, Conserv. Biol. 11, 797-801.Google Scholar
  27. Grace, J., Lloyd, J., McIntyre, J., et al.: 1994, Science 270, 778-780.Google Scholar
  28. Grieser Johns, A.: 1997, Timber Production and Biodiversity Conservation in Tropical Rain Forests. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, U.K.Google Scholar
  29. Holmes, B.: 1996, New Scientist 151(2048), 43.Google Scholar
  30. Houghton, R. A.: 1991, Climatic Change 19, 99-118.Google Scholar
  31. Houghton, R. A.: 1996, Tellus 48B, 419-432.Google Scholar
  32. INPE: 1996, ‘Deforestation Estimates in the Brazilian Amazon, 1991–1994.’ Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, San Jose dos Campos, Brazil.Google Scholar
  33. INPE: 1998, ‘Deforestation Estimates in the Brazilian Amazon, 1995–1997.’ Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, San Jose dos Campos, Brazil.Google Scholar
  34. Ito, T. M., Loftus, M.: 1997, ‘Cutting and dealing.’ U.S. News and World Report, 3 October 1997.Google Scholar
  35. Kapos, V.: 1989, J. Trop. Ecol. 5, 173-185.Google Scholar
  36. Keller, M., Clark, D. A., Clark, D. B., et al.: 1996, Science 273, 201.Google Scholar
  37. Laurance, W. F.: 1998, Trends Ecol. Evol. 13, 411-415.Google Scholar
  38. Laurance, W. F.: 1999, ‘Gaia's lungs: Are the rainforests inhaling earth's excess carbon dioxide?’ Natural History Magazine, March 1999, p. 96.Google Scholar
  39. Laurance, W. F., Ferreira, L. V., Rankin de Merona, J. M., et al.: 1998a, Ecology 79, 2032-2040.Google Scholar
  40. Laurance, W. F., Laurance, S. G.: 1997, Biotropica 28, 310-322.Google Scholar
  41. Laurance, W. F., Laurance, S. G., Delamonica, P.: 1998b, Forest Ecol. Manage. 110, 173-180.Google Scholar
  42. Laurance, W. F., Laurance, S. G., Ferreira, L. V., et al.: 1997, Science 278, 1117-1118.Google Scholar
  43. Laurance, W. F., Williamson, G. B., Delamonica, P., et al.: Submitted, Science.Google Scholar
  44. Lean, J., Warrilow, D. A.: 1989. Nature 342, 411-413.Google Scholar
  45. Leighton, M.: 1986. In: G. T. Prance, ed., Tropical Rain Forests and the World Atmosphere, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, pp. 75-102.Google Scholar
  46. Malhi, Y., Baldocci, D. D., Jarvis, P. G.: In press, Plant. Cell and Environment.Google Scholar
  47. Malhi, Y., Nobre, A. D., Grace, J., et al.: 1998, J. Geophys. Res. Atmospheres 103(D24), 31593-31612.Google Scholar
  48. Meggers, B. J.: 1994, Climatic Change 28, 321-338.Google Scholar
  49. Nepstad, D. C.: 1998, ‘Origin, incidence, and implications of Amazon fires.’ U.S. Global Change Research Program Seminar Series, U.S. Global Change Program, Washington, D.C., 30 March 1998.Google Scholar
  50. Nepstad, D. C., Klink, C. A., Uhl, C., et al.: 1997, Ciencia e Cultura 49, 73-86.Google Scholar
  51. Nepstad, D. C., Moreira, A., Verissimo, A., et al.: 1998, Conserv. Biol. 12, 951-955.Google Scholar
  52. Nobre, C. A., Sellers, P. J., Shukla, J.: 1991, J. Climate 4, 957-988.Google Scholar
  53. Phillips, O. P., Malhi, Y., Higuchi, N., Laurance, W. F., et al.: 1998, Science 282, 439-442.Google Scholar
  54. Rayner, P. J., Enting, I. G., Francey, R. J., Langenfelds, R.: In press, Tellus.Google Scholar
  55. Schimel, D. S.: 1995, Global Change Biol. 1, 77-91.Google Scholar
  56. Schomberg, W.: 1998a, ‘Amazon fire risk rises due to logging, farmers.’ Reuters News Service, 15 March 1998.Google Scholar
  57. Schomberg, W.: 1998b, ‘Brazil introduces new law to protect environment.’ Reuters News Service, 13 February 1998.Google Scholar
  58. Schomberg, W.: 1999, ‘Brazil suspends issuing of Amazon clearing permits.’ Reuters News Service, 12 February 1999.Google Scholar
  59. Shukla, J., Nobre, C. A., Sellers, P.: 1990, Science 247, 1322-1325.Google Scholar
  60. Skole, D., Tucker, C. J.: 1993, Science 260, 1905-1910.Google Scholar
  61. Uhl, C., Buschbacher, R.: 1985, Biotropica 17, 265-268.Google Scholar
  62. Uhl, C., Kauffman, B.: 1990, Ecology 71, 437-449.Google Scholar
  63. Verissimo, A., Barreto, M., M. Mattos, et al.: 1992, Forest Ecol. Manage. 55, 169-199.Google Scholar
  64. Vitousek, P. M., Aber, J. D., Howarth, R. W., et al.: 1997, Ecol. Applic. 7, 737-750.Google Scholar
  65. Walker, G.: 1996, New Scientist 151(2048), 40-42.Google Scholar
  66. Whitmore, T. C.: 1997, In: W. F. Laurance and R. O. Bierregaard, Jr., eds., Tropical Forest Remnants: Ecology, Management, and Conservation of Fragmented Communities. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 3-12.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • William F. Laurance
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments ProjectNational Institute for Research in the Amazon (INPA)ManausBrazil
  2. 2.Biodiversity ProgramNational Museum of Natural History Smithsonian InstitutionWashingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations