Brazil Protects Vast Expanse of Northern Amazon

WASHINGTON, DC, December 5, 2006 (ENS) - In an effort to conserve the last great stretch of untouched rainforest on Earth, the governor of Brazil’s Pará state has protected an Amazon expanse the size of Illinois inhabited by thousands of wildlife species.

Stretching from the border of Guyana and Suriname in the north to south of the Amazon River, the seven new protected areas created by Pará Governor Simão Jatene include the world’s largest tropical forest reserve.

Jatene

Pará Governor Simão Jatene has set aside seven areas of his state for conservation. (Photo courtesy CNTur)
The newly protected areas link to existing reserves to form a conservation corridor in the northern Amazon.

Endangered species in the newly protected areas include the giant otter and northern bearded saki monkey, along with rare species such as the jaguar, giant anteater and black spider monkey.

The Pará state government, in collaboration with the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment, IMAZON, based in Belém, Pará, and Conservation International, CI, based in Washington, DC, identified the region’s highest priority conservation targets.

"If any tropical rainforest on Earth remains intact a century from now, it will be this portion of northern Amazonia, due in large part to the governor’s visionary achievement," said CI President Russell Mittermeier.

CI´s Global Conservation Fund, with support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, is committing US$1 million for initial costs of implementing the new protected areas. The goal of this seed investment is a long-term financial mechanism to secure the integrity of Pará state’s conservation commitment.

map

Map shows new protected areas in the Brazilian state of Pará. (Map courtesy CI)
"This is the greatest effort in history toward the creation of protected areas in tropical forests," said Adalberto Veríssimo, senior researcher at IMAZON.

In total, the new protected areas cover 57,915 square miles (15 million hectares). Included is the 16,409 square mile (4.25 million hectare) Grão-Pará Ecological Station - the world’s largest tropical forest reserve.

The seven protected areas complete the Brazilian portion of of the Guayana Shield corridor of Amazon rainforest, which encompasses more than 25 percent of Earth’s humid tropical forests.

Almost 90 percent of the Guayana Shield forest is still untouched, and the region contains the most significant freshwater reserves in the American tropics, with almost 20 percent of the world’s water running through it.

"The region has more undisturbed rainforest than anywhere else," Mittermeier said, "and the new protected areas being created by Pará state represent an historic step toward ensuring that they continue to conserve the region’s rich biodiversity and maintain its essential ecosystem services."

The area is threatened by illegal gold mining, which can contaminate water resources with mercury and cause siltation, illegal hunting, and unsustainable use of the forest for wood products, according to WWF-Brazil, which joined the other conservation groups in requesting these protected areas.

“The creation of these new protected areas is of enormous relevance for conservation of the Amazon,” said Denise Hamú, CEO of WWF-Brazil.

otter

The endangered giant otter will benefit from protection of its habitat. (Photo courtesy Terrambiente.org)
The Grão-Pará station connects to the new 5,830 square mile Maicuru Biological Reserve and several existing reserves, including Tumucumaque National Park in Brazil’s Amapá state, to form a continuous protected zone in northern Brazil that anchors the Guayana Shield corridor.

Both the Grão-Pará station and Maicuru reserve are restricted protection areas in which only research and conservation are allowed.

The other new zones are Sustainable Use Protected Areas intended to manage natural resources in a sustainable way to supply the needs of local communities.

Since 1970, more than 232,000 square miles (600,000 square kilometers) of Amazon rainforest – an area larger than France - has been destroyed.

Continued deforestation at that rate would imperil the entire region by 2050, and increase climate change by releasing into the atmosphere the gigatons of carbon dioxide stored naturally in the rainforest, CI said in a statement.

"I cannot remember any single announcement like this," says José Maria Cardoso da Silva, vice president of science for Conservation International (CI)-Brazil. "This is one of the major conservation announcements of the last decades."