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Smithsonian Fragmentation Project threatened by Amazon Colonization Plan

The Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, one of the most important long-term research efforts in the Amazon, is imperiled by new colonization proposed by the Brazilian federal agency SUFRAMA, according to a commentary in the July 26, 2007 journal Nature, co-authored by William Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and Regina Luizo of Brazils National Institute for Amazonian Research.

Hunters have already invaded the area. Research camps have been raided and equipment has been stolen. Last year, several study sites were burned by colonists. The stakes are very high, said Laurance. Its not just the fragmentation project thats threatened but also other scientific sites operated by Brazilian and other organizations, as well as critical conservation areas in the region.

Since 1979, the project has hosted hundreds of scientists and students from around the world, working to understand how habitat fragmentation affects the complex Amazonian rainforest. Located two hours north of Manaus, Brazil, the projects study area spans 1,000 square kilometers and is home to an abundance of large rainforest animals, such as jaguars, pumas, tapirs and harpy eagles, which are quickly hunted out of unprotected forests.

Now, SUFRAMA (Superintendencia da Zona Franca de Manaus, the Manaus duty free zone oversight commission), which manages a large expanse of central Amazonia, plans to establish colonization projects both inside the study area and across the region. Altogether, many thousands of people could be settled in what is now rainforest.

There is really not much to be gained economically from these colonization projects, and there is so much to lose, said Thomas Lovejoy, President of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment in Washington, D.C., who conceived and helped to establish the fragmentation project more than 25 years ago. In fact, the results of the science were doing could be more prof
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25-Jul-2007


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