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The Amazon in 2050: Implementing the law could save a million square kilometers of rainforest

Economic and political forces are rapidly transforming the forests of the Amazon basin, precipitating one of the world's greatest environmental crises.

Through an inter-discplinary modeling project known as Amazon Scenarios, scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center, the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Brazil), and the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da AmazĂ´nia (Brazil), with colleagues at several other institutions, are simulating future trends in deforestation, forest fire, rivers, fauna, and climate, providing glimpses of plausible futures for this region. A study of deforestation responses to different policies will be published in the March 23, 2006, issue of Nature. It shows that simply implementing existing laws and proposed protected areas would spare the Amazon one million square kilometers of deforestation (one fifth of the entire forest area), avoiding 17 billion tons of carbon emissions to the atmosphere, the elimination of several forest formations, and the degradation of several major watersheds.

According to Britaldo Soares-Filho, the paper's lead author, "For the first time, we can examine how individual policies ranging from the paving of highways to the requirement for forest reserves on private properties will influence the future of the world's largest tropical forest. Our model shows that several unique forest ecosystems and entire watersheds will be badly degraded over the next 45 years if we don't rapidly increase our capacity to govern this dynamic region.

By developing the first empirically-based, policy sensitive model of Amazon deforestation to assess forest losses within major watersheds, eco-regions, vegetation types, and the geographic ranges of 382 mammal species, two extreme scenarios were developed, encompassing the likely range of future trajectories of deforestation through 2050. The first of the two futures discussed is a business-as-usual scenario in which the forces of destruction continue un
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Source:Woods Hole Research Center


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