– In a major step to save the last great tract of untouched rainforest on Earth, Brazil’s Pará state is protecting an Amazon expanse larger than England that teems with thousands of wildlife species including jaguars, anteaters and colorful macaws.
The seven new protected areas created by Pará Governor Simão Jatene include the world’s largest tropical forest reserve and other swaths that link to existing reserves to form a vast conservation corridor in the northern Amazon.
A joint effort led by the Pará State Government, in collaboration with the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment (IMAZON) and Conservation International (CI), identified the region’s highest-priority conservation targets that now have been protected. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation provided major support.
“If any tropical rainforest on Earth remains intact a century from now, it will be this portion of northern Amazonia, due in large part to the governor’s visionary achievement,” CI President Russell A. Mittermeier said. “The region has more undisturbed rainforest than anywhere else, and the new protected areas being created by Pará state represent an historic step toward ensuring that they continue to conserve the region’s rich biodiversity and maintain its essential ecosystem services.”
The new protected areas complete the Brazilian portion of the Guayana Shield corridor of Amazon rainforest stretching from neighboring Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana into Brazil. Conservation corridors are protected zones crossing political and natural boundaries that maintain entire ecosystems for the benefit of the diverse biological life and human populations.
The Guayana Shield region is a global conservation priority, containing more than 25 percent of Earth’s humid tropical forests. Almost 90 percent of the Guayana Shield forest is untouched, and the region contains the most significant freshwater reserves in the American tropics, with almost 20 percent of the world’s water running through it.
Endangered species in the new protected areas include the giant otter and northern bearded saki monkey, along with flagship species such as the jaguar, giant anteater and black spider monkey living among some of the richest biological diversity on Earth.
Since 1970, more than 600,000 square kilometers (232,000 square miles) of Amazon rainforest – an area larger than France – has been destroyed, endangering countless species and environmental benefits such as fresh water and natural resources that sustain local communities. Continued deforestation at that rate would imperil the entire region by 2050, and increase climate change by releasing into the atmosphere the gigatons of carbon dioxide stored naturally in the rainforest.
In total, the new protected areas cover 15 million hectares (57,915 square miles), including the 4.25-million-hectare (16,409 square miles) Grão-Pará Ecological Station, which is the world’s largest tropical forest reserve at roughly the size of Denmark (twice the size of Massachusetts).
“This is the greatest effort in history toward the creation of protected areas in tropical forests,” said Adalberto Veríssimo, senior researcher at IMAZON.
The Grão-Pará station connects to the new 1.51-million-hectare (5,830 square miles) Maicuru Biological Reserve and several existing reserves, including Tumucumaque National Park in Brazil’s Amapá state, to form a contiguous protected zone in northern Brazil that anchors the Guayana Shield corridor.
Both the Grão-Pará station and Maicuru reserve are restricted protection areas in which only research and conservation are allowed. The other new zones are Sustainable Use Protected Areas intended to manage natural resources in a sustainable way to supply the needs of local communities.
CI is committing US $1 million for initial costs of implementing the new protected areas. The goal of this seed investment is a long-term financial mechanism to secure the integrity of Pará state’s conservation commitment.
Imazon is a non-profit research institution whose mission is to promote sustainable development in the Amazon region through studies, information dissemination and professional training. The institute was founded in 1990, and its head office is located in the metropolitan region of Belém, Pará, Brazil. For more information about Imazon, visit www.imazon.org.br.