Other threats

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From left to right; (1) commercially valuable fish species have already disappeared in some regions due to over-exploitation; (2) oil pollution; (3) informal gold mining destroys forests, erodes river banks and seriously contaminates freshwater sources; (4) illegal logging degrades the rainforest and provides access for other extractive activities.
© From left to right: JUAN PRATGINESTOS / WWF – CANON, BRENT STIRTON / GETTY IMAGES / WWF, EDWARD PARKER / WWF – CANON, ANDRE BÄRTSCHI / WWF – CANON
In addition to the larger threats described previously there are a series of additional extractive activities that, when improperly planned, can cause significant damage at local or landscape scales and/or magnify the other larger threats.

Gold mining. The most common form of gold mining in the Amazon is conducted by small-scale miners with rudimentary technology and important cumulative impacts in specific areas of the Amazon, together with serious effects on human health. In addition to the devastation of landscape removal and water contamination, the enormous energy needs of the industrial mining and ore processing industries create a demand which drives deforestation for charcoal fuel and damming of rivers for hydropower.

Oil. The most severe direct environmental impacts of hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation include oil or gas spills and the improper discharge of the salt-laden waters used to process the crude oil, all of which can cause devastating long-term impacts on the health of local inhabitants and ecosystems.

Illegal logging. People living in or around forests have been using timber for centuries to satisfy basic needs (fuel, construction) and to generate income to sustain their livelihoods. Done properly, logging can be a sustainable form of using the goods and services provided by forest ecosystems, by letting them recover after our interventions. Sadly, around the world, high demand for timber products, weak rule of law, and poorly implemented trade rules are leading to logging that destroys nature and wildlife, damages communities, and distorts trade. A number of agreements, fora, and conventions have attempted to deal with the problem – yet illegal logging6 still persists.

This threat in the Amazon is degrading large areas of natural forest leading to loss of habitat and species (biodiversity). These losses decrease livelihood opportunities for forest-dwelling communities, promote forest fires, increase carbon emissions and induce harmful changes in hydrological patterns.

Overexploitation of aquatic resources. Paiche or pirarucu (Arapaima gigas), caimans (Paleosuchus and Melanosuchus sp.), and river turtles (Podocnemis expansa) are some of the aquatic species historically affected by over-harvesting for food, leather, eggs and shells. Some other beautiful or rare species are target of the aquarium trade.

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