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© Zig Koch / WWF Living Amazon Initiative

Spaces for conserving biological and cultural diversity and for contributing to reduction of poverty and of social exclusion

Covering an area of 6.7 million km2 (larger than Europe), the Amazon Biome is both complex and fascinating. Not only is it the world’s largest tropical forest, but it contains 10% of the planet’s known biodiversity and its rivers discharge 15% of the world’s freshwater into the Atlantic ocean.

The number of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles that can be found in the biome is truly impressive, not counting the astonishing diversity of plants and invertebrates. But there is an impressive cultural diversity too. The Amazon is home to over 34.1 million people living in the eight countries that share the Amazon Biome: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela and one overseas territory (French Guiana). Of this total, almost 2.7 million are Amazonian indigenous people (9.2% of the Amazonian population) representing over 350 ethnic groups, 60 of which still live in voluntary isolation1.

Over three thousand indigenous territories have been identified within the Amazon Biome. These areas represent 35% of the Amazon region2. When protected areas are added to this percentage, 49.4% of the biome is under some type of management and protection.


  • Currently, 80 million hectares are in Protected Areas
  • 2.7 million indigenous people
  • 350 ethnic groups
  • 60 in involuntary isolation
  • 34 million people living in the eight countries and one overseas territory that share the Amazon Biome
  • Over 3.000 Indigenous territories have been identified within the limits of the Amazon Biome

Protected areas are spaces in which biological diversity, natural resources and often also cultural heritage are conserved.

Today, the term “protected area” covers a number of different categories that range from strict protection to those that allow the sustainable use of resources.

Protected areas maintain representative samples of habitats and ecosystems, preserve the natural and cultural heritage in a dynamic and evolutionary state, and offer opportunities for research, environmental education, recreation and tourism. In addition, they improve the ability of natural ecosystems to adapt to extreme climate phenomena and ensure the provision of fundamental goods and services in the context of climate change. From a socio-economic perspective, protected areas offer work opportunities and means of subsistence to the people who live in and around them, contributing to the alleviation of poverty and to the promotion of fair and equitable participation in the benefits of conservation. They are also spaces in which diverse forms of governance and management are developed.

At the same time, there is increasing evidence of the important role that indigenous territories play in the conservation of biodiversity and protection of critical spaces for the maintenance of ecological processes and provision of ecosystem services. Although the main purpose of these territories is to secure the tenure of the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples and safeguard their cultures, the conservation of the biodiversity in their territories is fundamental for their survival and is strongly tied to their livelihoods and to ensuring their access to the natural resources they depend on.

Protected Areas rel= © WWF


1 International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs, IWGIA, and the Institute for the Promotion of Social

Studies, IPES – 2012. Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation and Initial Contact.
2 Riveros, J.C. et al. Protected Areas and Indigenous Territories of the Amazon – Five Decades of Change
(1960 -2012). A WWF Living Amazon Initiative Report related to The State of the Amazon. In prep.