Update, March 4, 2013
Oil palm is one of the major emerging threats in the Amazon, particularly because it often results in the clear-cutting of large tracts of remaining forest. As part of the Sustainable Loreto Project, we are analyzing satellite images to both document recent deforestation and predict future deforestation, all with the aim of raising awareness and changing policy to avoid the latter. (http://bit.ly/WHsNuW for full article text in Spanish)
The northwest Amazon is renowned for its extraordinary biodiversity, with possible world records for everything from amphibians to trees. It may also serve as a biological refuge as the corner of the Amazon least vulnerable to drought as climate change intensifies.
In the heart of the northwest Amazon lies Loreto, a vast region in northern Peru roughly the size of Montana. Loreto is a strategic focal point in that it contains some of the most remote, intact, carbon-rich, and biodiverse tracts of rainforest remaining in the Amazon.
A group of biologists, including CIEL project scientist Dr. Matt Finer, recently found that a section of Loreto is part of a small, unique zone where four key biological groups—amphibians, birds, mammals, and vascular plants—all reach their maximum diversity within the Western Hemisphere. Scientists dubbed this zone the Quadruple Richness Center in recognition of it being the only known spot where all four groups reach peak diversity together.
In addition, many parts of Loreto are refugia for globally endangered and threatened species disappearing from more disturbed Neotropical forests. Loreto also contains numerous regional endemics found nowhere else in the world.
Loreto is also home to an incredible diversity of ethnic groups, including some of the planet’s last uncontacted peoples living in voluntary isolation.
In short, Loreto is a region of primary global significance.
However, Loreto now faces a wave of major development pressures. Oil extraction, palm oil plantations, dams, transportation projects, logging and mining concessions, and other development could, individually and cumulatively, significantly impact biodiversity and the vitality of Loreto. Illicit activities such as illegal logging, mining, and coca production are also rapidly expanding in Loreto.
The “Sustainable Loreto” project will support Loreto’s regional government and people in responding to these development projects and threats.
This research is funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and in collaboration with our Peruvian partner, DAR, the Sustainable Loreto project will help build the knowledge and the forums needed for local communities, civil society, and others to contribute to development decisions that protect biodiversity.
This information will continue to be updated as the project advances.