Brazil: World Wildlife report on what must be done for the survival of the Amazon

With continuing conversion of the Amazon, mankind is involved in a
gigantic experiment, with the largest life support system on Earth at
stake. The outcome of this experiment is largely unknown. Little is
known about the exact synergies and feedbacks among these processes.

It is obvious, however, that the value of the multiple ecosystem
services provided by Amazon forests will decline sharply over the
coming decades if current policies do not change. It is also becoming
increasingly clear that the Amazon biome is reaching the limit of its
ability to function with resilience. When we draw up the balance of
all current threats and their mutual interactions, we are ineluctably
forced to consider the notion that the destructive processes going on
in the Amazon are approaching a point of no return.

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Parks and indigenous territories are effective in halting
deforestation and forest fres according to a study by Nepstad et al.
(2006). Using maps of land cover and fre occurrence based on satellite
images obtained between 1997 and 2000, the authors conclude that
deforestation was 1.7 to 20 times greater outside versus inside the
perimeter of reserves, while fres occurred 4 to 9 times more
frequently outside versus inside.

In frontier areas where deforestation rates are high, in 33 out of 38 cases indigenous lands had deforestation rates of 0.75% or less versus more than 1.5% outside their borders. Parks and indigenous territories provide a similar picture of deforestation inhibition. Indigenous territories form the most important barrier to Amazon deforestation. Indigenous land occupies a much larger area than the parks in the entire Amazon.

Conservationists may argue that indigenous peoples will cease to protect forests as their contacts with amarket society increase, but Nepstad et al. (2006) found that virtually all indigenous lands substantially inhibit deforestation up to 400 years after contact with the national society. There was no correlation between population density in indigenous areas and the inhibition of deforestation. In a large part of the Amazon, forest protection can be reconciled with human habitation and sustainable management – it would not happen without the people. We therefore recommend strengthening protected area management and the creation of new protected areas ahead of the agricultural frontier. Furthermore, the rights of indigenous peoples over their land should be recognized and the capacity of indigenous organizations to manage their own territories should be strengthened.

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