Large parts of the Amazon may never recover, major study says | Amazon rainforest

A major study by scientists and local organizations has found that environmental destruction in parts of the Amazon is so complete that areas of the rainforest have reached tipping point and may never recover.

“The tipping point is not a future scenario, but rather a phase that already exists in some areas of the region,” the report said. “Brazil and Bolivia account for 90% of all deforestation and degradation combined. As a result, Savanization is already happening in both countries.”

scientists from The Amazon network of geo-referenced socio-ecological data (RAISG) worked with Coordinator of local organizations of the Amazon Basin (Coica) to prepare the study, Amazonia Against the Clock covers all nine nations that contain parts of the Amazon, one of the largest to date.

Of the nine smaller Suriname and French Guiana, only two found at least half of their forests still intact.

Amazon grassroots organizations representing 511 countries and allies are calling for a global pact to permanently protect 80% of the Amazon by 2025.

Considering that only 74% of the original forest remains, the 80% target is a big challenge. Urgent action is needed not only to protect the forest that still exists, but also to restore degraded land and return to that 80% level.

“It’s difficult, but it can be done,” said Alicia Guzmán, an Ecuadorian scientist who coordinated the report. “Everything depends on the participation of local communities and people living in the forest. That and debt.”

Guzmán said giving indigenous groups more land management — and crucially, ensuring it is protected by the state and closing legal loopholes that allow extractive industries — is the surest way to guarantee conservation.

Almost half of the Amazon is designated as either a protected area or an indigenous area, and only 14% of all deforestation occurs there. Currently, approximately 100 million hectares of indigenous land are under dispute or awaiting official government recognition.

“Having local people in the decision-making process means relying on the knowledge of those who know the most about the forest,” Guzman said. “And they need a budget.”

They also need to protect their land from encroachers and extractive industries.

Mining is a growing threat, with protected areas and indigenous lands among the most coveted areas by prospectors. Much of the mining is clandestine and illegal, but about half is done legally in protected areas, and scientists have called on governments to deny or revoke mining permits.

Oil is another threat, especially in Ecuador, the source of 89% of all crude oil exported from the region.

Oil blocks cover 9.4% of the Amazon’s surface, and 43% of them are in protected areas and indigenous lands. The report states that more than half of the Ecuadorian Amazon is designated as an oil block, with parts in Peru (31%). Bolivia (29%) and Colombia (28%) are also concerned.

Farming is more of a concern. According to the report, 84% of deforestation is caused by agriculture, and the amount of land devoted to agriculture has tripled since 1985. Brazil soybeans, beef and grains are among the world’s major food exporters, feeding large parts of the world and bringing in billions of dollars in revenue each year.

The main recommendation of the study is greater cooperation between regional governments, international financial institutions and the private equity companies that hold most of the Amazon countries’ debt.

Latin America is the most heavily indebted region in the developing world, and debt relief in exchange for safeguard commitments would be significant.

“They have a unique opportunity to forgive existing debt in exchange for commitments to freeze industrial production and promote conservation in key priority areas, indigenous areas and protected areas,” the report said.

Among the 13 other “solutions” proposed in the report are: a complete freeze on new licenses and funding for mining, oil, ranching, large dams, logging and other such activities; increasing transparency and accountability in supply chains; restoration of deforested lands; and new governance models that allow for increased representation and recognition for indigenous peoples.

While the task is huge, there are reasons for optimism, especially in Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro faces former incumbent Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in a tight election on October 2.

Lula leads the polls. During his time in power in the 2000s, deforestation fell by more than 80%.

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