The Brazilian government has made another move to ramp up protective measures for the Amazon rainforests, this time for an area equivalent to the size of Delaware. The newly protected reserve has been named Alto Maues and it is situated in the western state of Amazonas, bordered by Para. The reserve spans 6680 square kilometres, which is equivalent to about 1.65 million acres. The majority of the area protected is thought to be untouched and uninhabited by humans. The area lies just north of the deforestation belt, which many experts claim is the last barrier to protecting the pristine forests of the Northern Amazon. Preserving Alto Maues is a pre-emptive move toward protecting the future of the forests.
The protection of Alto Maues is not merely an effort to safeguard the forests against clear cutting and other methods of mass deforestation. It is also a part of a wider climate policy geared toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While fossil fuels are the primary sources of CO2 emissions in other countries, in Brazil the bulk of emissions are due to deforestation, much of which is illegal. The hope is that federal protection designation will result in lowered CO2 emissions and reduce deforestation.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, the area is home to over 13 species of primates and over 600 species of birds. Some species are considered vulnerable or threatened, while others are endangered, such as the Red-Nosed Saki. This primate is endemic to the Amazon and requires large tracts of forest to thrive. Its numbers have dwindled as its habitat has been vastly reduced by the influx of roads and other infrastructure related to a rise in soybean farming in the area. Protecting the area not only contributes to reducing CO2 emissions and slows the rate of deforestation, but also serves to protect the habitats of a vast array of creatures.
To these ends, Brazil has been combating deforestation for the last decade, often quite successfully. The country has reportedly reduced its rates of clear-cutting activity by 70% but still struggles with illegal operations associated with high demands for mining, timber and beef in North America, Asia and Europe, along with the need for local farmland. However, past efforts may have been thwarted recently as satellite reports indicated a 29% increase in clear-cutting in 2013 alone, much of which is illegal. While the declaration of the area as a federal reserve does not guarantee its protection (a similarly protected area 400 kilometres away reportedly lost 391 hectares in the last decade), it is a step in the right direction. Continued real-time monitoring, made possibly by advancements in technology and satellite innovations, will help to track illegal operations and reduce clear-cutting.
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