Farming fragmenting Amazonian research

Agriculture is encroaching on forest research areas Copyright: NASA

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The world’s longest-running study of forest fragments is threatened by farming, logging and hunting, say William Laurance and Regina Luizão in this Nature article.

Laurance and Luizão say the 1,000 square kilometre study area of the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (BDFFP), two hours north of the rapidly-growing Brazilian city of Manaus, is under threat from agricultural expansion.

And government bureaucracies, they say, are either disinterested or determined to push ahead with forest colonisation at any cost.

Since the project’s launch in the 1970s, say the authors, researchers have gained unparalleled insights into the ecological decay of forest fragments.

In unfragmented parts of the BDFFP study area, researchers are still able to study large predators and other animals — jaguars, pumas, eagles and tapirs — that have vanished from other important tropical research centres.

The project has also played a leading educational role, providing free environmental training courses for up to 100 Latin American students, park managers and political leaders a year.

Staff and researchers are lobbying against local forest colonisation projects and trying to establish new protected areas, but according to Laurance and Luizão, saving the project is a race against the clock.

Link to full article in Nature