Deforestation fronts require ambitious and integrated commitments to prevent the collapse of the Amazon region

Posted on December, 10 2014

Twenty-five deforestation hotspots in the Amazon compromise the ecosystem services provided by the biome to local people, the South American countries and the world
Deforestation and forest degradation in the Amazon region is still alarming. Twenty-five deforestation fronts were identified showing an increase of forest loss now including in the Andean Amazon countries. Considering the global climate importance of the Amazon forest in reducing or avoiding carbon emissions and the region’s vital role to the countries security agenda, the deforestation and ecosystem degradation processes require more regionally integrated and effective country policies.
The Amazon biome encompasses 6.7 million km2, shared by nine countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and France (French Guiana). More than 34 million people live in the Amazon region, including 385 indigenous groups, 60 of them in voluntary isolation.
The preliminary findings of the WWF Living Amazon Initiative study ‘Deforestation Fronts in the Amazon Region: Current Situation and Future Trends’ were presented on December 9, in Lima, Peru, at the conference ‘La COP 20: Perspectivas desde el Sur’, which main goal was to discuss current development models and alternatives aimed at a sustainable society and the formulation of policies in favor the most vulnerable to climate change.
Cláudio Maretti, WWF Living Amazon Initiative leader, explains that the Amazon is a complex natural region, ecologically and culturally diverse, and hugely important in terms of the ecosystem services it provides. Although still in a relatively well-conserved condition, is under increasing degradation pressure. 
“What happens in one part of the Amazon affects the others. Therefore the Amazon deforestation is no longer an issue for individual countries to tackle in isolation. Many drivers are global. Impacts that appear to be localised are also reflected in other parts of the biome. And often also well beyond its boundaries, in ecosystem services the biome provides to the world, such as promoting moist air movement east and southwards, leading to rainfall in other areas of the continent”, says Maretti.
The important reduction in the rate of deforestation in Brazil in recent years is not enough to leave the Amazon region free of the threat of forest loss and its consequences. From 2001-2012, 17.7 million hectares were deforested in the region, and Brazil is the country with the highest levels of accumulated forest loss in the region and yet one of the top deforesting countries on Earth. Brazil, Bolivia and Peru are jointly responsible for 90% of all deforestation in the Amazon in 12 years.
“Even if Brazil managed to reduce its deforestation, this is not enough. And the rates have been increasing in the Andean-Amazon countries. Besides, there is increasing disperse threats inside the region, driven by dams, mines, oil exploration etc. All the Amazon countries still need to improve their strategies to tackle deforestation and need to do that integrated to each other”, commented Maretti.
Threats and solutions
The main threats to the Amazon arise from the growing political and economic interests and a very short term vision of how the land and the natural wealth of the Amazon should be used. The threats vary from country to country and even within a single country, but they are mainly represented by land speculation and illegal land grabbing, large-scale mechanised agriculture, open range cattle ranching, transport infrastructure and, to a lesser extent, small-scale subsistence agriculture. But more important than separating the drivers, is the understanding of the geographical and economic relationship among them and the multiplication effects of their combination.
Among the WWF Living Amazon Initiative recommendations is that the Amazon and other governments should review incentive mechanisms avoiding the current perverse incentives that promotes activities that cause or are related to deforestation. On the other hand promoting economic incentives for investments in more sustainable productive activities is needed.
“Establish different types of conservation spaces and recognize the role of Indigenous Territories, protected areas and sustainable use reserves co-managed with local communities are of fundamental importance. The governments and decision makers from all sectors must recognize that these spaces of conservation contribute to the development and should be part of sustainable development plans as a solution and a vision for the future”, explained Maretti.
The conference
‘La COP 20: Perspectivas desde el Sur’ is organized by the Antonio Ruiz de Montoya University, International Network of Peers for Environment and Sustainability of the Association of Universities Entrusted in Company of Jesus in Latin America (AUSJAL) and Interfaith Council of Peru - Religions for Peace.
The WWF Living Amazon Initiative participation is part of a broader collaboration with Catholic universities initiated in 2013 with the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, during the Pope´s visit to Brazil, to share and discuss information about environment and nature conservation in order to collaborate in pro-Amazon actions.
Aerial view over the tropical rainforest showing deforestation as a result of industrial logging, Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil.
© Staffan Widstrand / WWF