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      The role of forest conversion, degradation, and disturbance in the carbon dynamics of Amazon indigenous territories and protected areas


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          For decades, Amazon indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) have impeded deforestation and associated greenhouse gas emissions. While emissions inside indigenous territories (ITs) and protected natural areas (PNAs) remain well below levels outside, unsustainable forest clearing is on the rise across the nine-nation region. In addition, Amazon ITs and PNAs are increasingly vulnerable to the less conspicuous (and often-neglected) processes of forest degradation and disturbance, which diminish carbon storage and ecological integrity. The trend toward weakening of environmental protections, indigenous land rights, and the rule of law thus poses an existential threat to IPLCs and their territories. Reversing this trend is critical for the future of climate-buffering Amazon forests and the success of the Paris Agreement.


          Maintaining the abundance of carbon stored aboveground in Amazon forests is central to any comprehensive climate stabilization strategy. Growing evidence points to indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) as buffers against large-scale carbon emissions across a nine-nation network of indigenous territories (ITs) and protected natural areas (PNAs). Previous studies have demonstrated a link between indigenous land management and avoided deforestation, yet few have accounted for forest degradation and natural disturbances—processes that occur without forest clearing but are increasingly important drivers of biomass loss. Here we provide a comprehensive accounting of aboveground carbon dynamics inside and outside Amazon protected lands. Using published data on changes in aboveground carbon density and forest cover, we track gains and losses in carbon density from forest conversion and degradation/disturbance. We find that ITs and PNAs stored more than one-half (58%; 41,991 MtC) of the region’s carbon in 2016 but were responsible for just 10% (−130 MtC) of the net change (−1,290 MtC). Nevertheless, nearly one-half billion tons of carbon were lost from both ITs and PNAs (−434 MtC and −423 MtC, respectively), with degradation/disturbance accounting for >75% of the losses in 7 countries. With deforestation increasing, and degradation/disturbance a neglected but significant source of region-wide emissions (47%), our results suggest that sustained support for IPLC stewardship of Amazon forests is critical. IPLCs provide a global environmental service that merits increased political protection and financial support, particularly if Amazon Basin countries are to achieve their commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.

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          Most cited references 45

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          Impacts of roads and linear clearings on tropical forests.

          Linear infrastructure such as roads, highways, power lines and gas lines are omnipresent features of human activity and are rapidly expanding in the tropics. Tropical species are especially vulnerable to such infrastructure because they include many ecological specialists that avoid even narrow (<30-m wide) clearings and forest edges, as well as other species that are susceptible to road kill, predation or hunting by humans near roads. In addition, roads have a major role in opening up forested tropical regions to destructive colonization and exploitation. Here, we synthesize existing research on the impacts of roads and other linear clearings on tropical rainforests, and assert that such impacts are often qualitatively and quantitatively different in tropical forests than in other ecosystems. We also highlight practical measures to reduce the negative impacts of roads and other linear infrastructure on tropical species.
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            Slowing Amazon deforestation through public policy and interventions in beef and soy supply chains.

            The recent 70% decline in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon suggests that it is possible to manage the advance of a vast agricultural frontier. Enforcement of laws, interventions in soy and beef supply chains, restrictions on access to credit, and expansion of protected areas appear to have contributed to this decline, as did a decline in the demand for new deforestation. The supply chain interventions that fed into this deceleration are precariously dependent on corporate risk management, and public policies have relied excessively on punitive measures. Systems for delivering positive incentives for farmers to forgo deforestation have been designed but not fully implemented. Territorial approaches to deforestation have been effective and could consolidate progress in slowing deforestation while providing a framework for addressing other important dimensions of sustainable development. Copyright © 2014, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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              Inhibition of Amazon deforestation and fire by parks and indigenous lands.

              Conservation scientists generally agree that many types of protected areas will be needed to protect tropical forests. But little is known of the comparative performance of inhabited and uninhabited reserves in slowing the most extreme form of forest disturbance: conversion to agriculture. We used satellite-based maps of land cover and fire occurrence in the Brazilian Amazon to compare the performance of large (> 10,000 ha) uninhabited (parks) and inhabited (indigenous lands, extractive reserves, and national forests) reserves. Reserves significantly reduced both deforestation and fire. Deforestation was 1.7 (extractive reserves) to 20 (parks) times higher along the outside versus the inside of the reserve perimeters and fire occurrence was 4 (indigenous lands) to 9 (national forests) times higher. No strong difference in the inhibition of deforestation (p = 0. 11) or fire (p = 0.34) was found between parks and indigenous lands. However, uninhabited reserves tended to be located away from areas of high deforestation and burning rates. In contrast, indigenous lands were often created in response to frontier expansion, and many prevented deforestation completely despite high rates of deforestation along their boundaries. The inhibitory effect of indigenous lands on deforestation was strong after centuries of contact with the national society and was not correlated with indigenous population density. Indigenous lands occupy one-fifth of the Brazilian Amazon-five times the area under protection in parks--and are currently the most important barrier to Amazon deforestation. As the protected-area network expands from 36% to 41% of the Brazilian Amazon over the coming years, the greatest challenge will be successful reserve implementation in high-risk areas of frontier expansion as indigenous lands are strengthened. This success will depend on a broad base of political support.

                Author and article information

                Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
                Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
                National Academy of Sciences
                11 February 2020
                27 January 2020
                27 January 2020
                : 117
                : 6
                : 3015-3025
                aWoods Hole Research Center , Falmouth, MA 02540;
                bFundación EcoCiencia , 170517 Quito, Ecuador;
                cRed Amazónica de Información Socioambiental Georreferenciada , 01238-001 São Paulo, Brazil;
                dEnvironmental Defense Fund , Washington, DC 20009;
                eInstituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia , 70863-520 Brasília, Brazil;
                fInstituto Socioambiental , 01238-001 São Paulo, Brasil;
                gInstituto del Bien Común , Lima 11, Perú;
                hCoordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica , 170525 Quito, Ecuador;
                iFundación Amigos de la Naturaleza , CP 2241 Santa Cruz, Bolivia;
                jFundación GAIA Amazonas , Bogotá, Colombia;
                kProvita , Unidad Técnica del Este, Caracas 1060, Venezuela
                Author notes
                1To whom correspondence may be addressed. Email: wwalker@ 123456whrc.org .

                Edited by Carlos A. Nobre, University of São Paulo, Sao José dos Campos, Brazil, and approved December 23, 2019 (received for review August 5, 2019)

                Author contributions: W.S.W., S.R.G., A.B., J.L.A.-O., C.J., C.M., C.A., S.R., T.K., A.A.d.S., S.C., A.L., I.Z., and G.D.M. designed research; W.S.W., S.R.G., A.B., J.L.A.-O., C.J., C.A., S.R., A.A.d.S., S.C., A.L., I.Z., G.D.M., K.K.S., and M.K.F. performed research; W.S.W., S.R.G., A.B., J.L.A.-O., C.J., M.N.M., C.A., S.R., A.A.d.S., S.C., A.L., I.Z., G.D.M., K.K.S., M.K.F., P.M., and S.S. analyzed data; and W.S.W., S.R.G., A.B., J.L.A.-O., C.J., C.M., M.N.M., C.A., S.R., T.K., S.C., A.L., I.Z., G.D.M., P.M., and S.S. wrote the paper.

                Copyright © 2020 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.

                This open access article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).

                Page count
                Pages: 11
                Funded by: Ministry of Foreign Affairs | Direktoratet for Utviklingssamarbeid (NORAD) 100007843
                Award ID: RAM-2019 RAM-16/0003
                Award Recipient : Wayne S. Walker Award Recipient : Seth R. Gorelik Award Recipient : Alessandro Baccini Award Recipient : Jose Luis Aragon-Osejo Award Recipient : Carmen Josse Award Recipient : Chris Meyer Award Recipient : Cicero Augusto Award Recipient : Sandra Rios Award Recipient : Tuntiak Patricio Katan Jua Award Recipient : Alana Almeida de Souza Award Recipient : Saul Cuellar Award Recipient : Andres Llanos Award Recipient : Irene Zager Award Recipient : José Gregorio Mirabal Díaz
                Funded by: NASA Carbon Monitoring System (CMS)
                Award ID: NNX14AO81G
                Award Recipient : Wayne S. Walker Award Recipient : Seth R. Gorelik Award Recipient : Alessandro Baccini Award Recipient : Kylen K. Solvik Award Recipient : Mary K. Farina
                Biological Sciences
                Environmental Sciences


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