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Conservation battle faces long odds in Brazilian Amazon

A $40 billion onslaught of highways, railroads, hydroelectric projects and burgeoning population is overwhelming current efforts to promote conservation in the Amazon Forest of Brazil. If left unchecked, it will soon destroy the greatest tropical rainforest on Earth, experts say.

A new study to be published Friday in the journal Science shows that the well-intentioned conservation programs now underway in the Amazon are wholly inadequate to offset the destruction from agriculture, timber and mining that are taking place in the name of economic development.

Weve heard a lot about ecotourism, sustainable forestry and other conservation efforts in the Amazon, said Scott Bergen, a forest scientist at Oregon State University and co-author of the report. But if these development plans go through, well lose the largest remaining wilderness on Earth and a huge amount of the worlds remaining biodiversity. And that, of course, doesnt even consider the enormous impacts on the carbon cycle, global climate and greenhouse warming.

The stakes are enormously high and the battle is being lost, say researchers from OSU, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Michigan State University, and National Institute for Amazonian Research.

Problems with deforestation in the Amazon are not new. But this study, the experts say, is one of the first to look at the wider range of causes, ranging from population growth to economic policies, pipeline construction, roads, power lines, an influx of multi-national timber companies, slash-and-burn farming, ranching, mining, oil exploration, and many other issues. It projects the real impact of those causes on the Amazon landscape 20 years into the future.

The results of allowing current trends to continue is devastating, they say.

Non-indigenous populations in the Brazilian Amazon have increased about 10-fold since the 1960s, from two million people to 20 million. Investments totaling $40 billion are planned just in t
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Contact: Scott Bergen
scott.bergen@orst.edu
541-750-7364
Oregon State University
17-Jan-2001


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