Fragile Environments Case Studies

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What are the characteristics of the Amazon?

The Amazon is the world's largest tropical rainforest and covers 40% of the South American landmass.

It is one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth and is home to up to 1 million plant species, over 500 species of mammals, and over 2,000 fish species. The Amazon is also home to many endangered species, including the Amazonian manatee (an aquatic mammal), black caiman (a reptile), and the pirarucu (a fish).

The are two main threats to the ecosystem, which are deforestation, and overhunting and overfishing. Climate change is also a serious threat to the Amazon, as it could lead to drought, forest fires, and species extinction. However, climate change is an issue which can only be solved on a global scale. 

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Threats: Deforestation

Deforestation is the single biggest threat to the rainforest. 13% of the original forest has been cleared.

There are a number of reasons for deforestation. In the Amazon, mining, logging, and subsistence agriculture all contribute to deforestation, but cattle ranching is the biggest problem, as it was responsible for more than 60% of all deforestation between 2000 and 2005.

The impacts of deforestation are wide. In the Amazon there have been problems with increased forest fires and soil erosion, and decreased biodiversity caused by habitat loss.

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Threats: Overhunting and Overfishing

Most of the local people still have a traditional lifestyle and rely on hunting, fishing, foraging and small-scale farming for food.

Population growth in recent years has caused an increase in subsistence hunting and fishing by local people.

Hunting primates for bushmeat is a big problem. In the Brazilian Amazon local people consume between 2.2 and 5.4 million primates per year. This is unsustainable because primates reproduce slowly and many species are endangered.

The loss of certain species can have knock-on effects on other species.

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The Central Amazon Conservation Complex

This was established in 2003 by bringing together four reserves in the Brazlian Amazon. These were the Jau National Park, Anavilhanas Ecological Station, Mamiraua Reserve, and Amana Reserve.

It aims to protect the biodiversity of this area of rainforest, with a focus on protecting endangered species, and to maintain the various ecosystems while allowing local people to continue using the forest for their livelihood in a sustainable way.

The complex covers an area of 49,000 square kilometres and it includes a variety of habitats, such as dry (unflooded) rainforest, rivers, lakes, seasonally flooded forest and dry grasslands.

The complex is managed by several organisations, including the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA), local government, research institutes and representatives from the mining and tourism industries.

Management strategies have been introduced to try to balance conservation and sustainable development.

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What management strategies has the CACC carried ou

The complex is divided into zones. These are total protection, buffer zones, sustainable use, rehabilitation and experimental use. Activities within these areas are strictly controlled:

  • In areas of total protection access is heavily restricted. For example, only researchers and authorised visitors are allowed in the Jau National Park.
  • In areas of sustainable use there are quotas to limit logging, hunting and fishing. 

Two Sustainable Development Reserves (SDRs) have been created where hunting and logging is only allowed for subsistence, and there are limits to the numbers of animals and fish that can be caught.

Education projects have been set up to educate local people about the environment and how to manage it. 

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What management strategies has the CACC carried ou

Economic Alternatives Programs have been set up. These are sustainable schemes run by local people who receive a direct income from their work. Communities are involved in fisheries management, ecotourism, sustainable agriculture, and handicraft production. For example, the Fibrarte Project supports local people who use natural fibres to make handicrafts, which they can sell.

Projects have been set up to increase community involvement with conservation. In Mamiraua, 60 communities take part in monitoring wildlife. Local representatives meet every two months with local government and non-government organisations to discuss ways of managing the environment and conserving biodiversity.

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How has the CACC been successful?

The creation of the conservation complex has protected the surrounding area from major developments that might have impacts on the CACC. There are no dams, pipelines, mines or commercial logging activities and currenty none are planned for the future. This is also helped by the fact that the area is in an isolated geographical location.

The SDRs have improved biodiversity. Populations of many key species have increased. Since the creation of the CACC the black caiman population has increased by 100% and the pirarucu fish population by over 300%.

Economic Alternatives Programs promote sustainable activities and have reduced poverty. The average household income has increased by 50% to 99% in some areas. Local farmers and craftsmen belong to producer's associations, which mean they can sell their goods directly to buyers, rather than trading through 'middle men' who charge a commission.

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How has the CACC been successful?

Eoctourism provides a source of income for locals and promote conservation. In Mamiraua a low environmental impact ecotourism lodge has been built, which recycles waste and uses solar power. The lodge brings money to the local community, and invests money into conservation and communitry projects. 5,000 people have adopted this source of income through the Mamiraua Sustainable Development Foccal Zone. 

Local education and health improvement projects have been successful aswell:

  • Local people have been trained as health workers, and better rainwater collection technology means local communities have access to clean drinking water. These changes have improved the quality of life of the local population, shown by a 53% drop in infant mortality.
  • 80 teachers from local schools have been trained to educate children about the environment. As a result, around 1,800 children have had classes on conservation. 
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Why has the CACC been unsuccessful?

The reserves are large and understaffed, which makes it difficult to monitor and control illegal activities, such as hunting. 150 people are employed in the Amana and Mamiraua reserves and there are 100 colunteer guards, but more volunteers are needed to cover the large area effectively.

Restricting access to areas of total protection is very difficult because of the size of the zones and the limited number of staff. For example, in Jau National Park there are only four permanent staff, so poaching of fish and turtles is still a problem. 26 volunteer guards have been trained, which may improve the situation.

Population growth in the area puts stress on the ecosystem, and some areas still duffer from intensive fishing and hunting, especially of monkeys and manatees.

Population growth across the region means deforestation around the edges of the CACC continues, Deforestation around the edges of the complex results in habitat loss and fragmentation (when forested areas are split up so animals can't move between them). It also makes the complex more accessible, which increases the risk of illegal overhunting and overfishing in the complex.

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What are the aims of the CACC?

It aims to protect the biodiversity of this area of rainforest, with a focus on protecting endangered species, and to maintain the various ecosystems while allowing local people to continue using the forest for their livelihood in a sustainable way.

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The Central Amazon Conservation Complex

It is home to 180 tree species, 500 bird species, such as parrots and macaws, 200 mammal species, with 100 bat species alone, and 300 fish species.

There are also endangered species such as the river dolphin and the anteater.

It is sparsely populated, with the majority of the people living near to rivers. One of the reasons for this is because the only way of transportation is by boat, with their being no roads. It takes 18 hours by boat from Manaus.

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