21 Oct 2016 Story Ecosystems

Protecting What Protects Us: A Network of Conservation Areas in the Amazon

Nairobi, 21 October 2016: It is the largest tropical forest in the world, a land of myths and magic. The Amazon provides ecological services not only to the 33 million people who live there, but to the rest of the planet.

This vast region suffers the effects of pollution and climate change. Despite recent advances in tackling degradation and deforestation, the Amazon´s survival is still threatened.

Since 2014 UN Environment, along with a number of partners, has been implementing a project to protect two large areas of the rainforest in a bid to conserve biological diversity and unique ecosystems.

The Amazon has occupied the collective imagination for centuries, for better or worse.  It has been both the site of great adventures by daring explorers and home to ancient indigenous communities.  But this vast region is also home to intense illegal wildlife traffic, violence and overexploitation of natural resources.

Today, around 380 indigenous communities with 86 languages and 650 dialects live in the Amazon rainforest.

The biological diversity is amazing: the Amazon is home to one-third of all the world´s species, and one-half of the world´s tropical forests. Known as the world's lungs, it is capable of producing oxygen, of conserving soils and controlling soil erosion, of regulating the climate and the rain cycles, of controlling pests and diseases, and of providing foods that are essential to human beings.


But this organ that is so vital for the planet is showing many signs of having fallen ill: as a consequence of climate change, the Amazon is being affected by the rise in the average temperature and by the change in rainfall patterns. This all has an impact on the ecosystems' equilibrium and increases their vulnerability.

Migratory agriculture and livestock have caused an accumulated deforestation in Amazonia, according to the report Perspective on the Environment in Amazonia: Geo Amazonia. If practices do not change, half of the Amazon rainforest may be deforested by 2030 and a huge part of the region is likely to become a huge grassy plain before the end of the 21st century.

Mining, oil spills, the use of agro-chemicals, solid waste from the cities and the international demand for natural resources such as wood, hydrocarbons, and minerals also play their own part in harming the environment in the Amazon.

Over the last several years, different initiatives have been put into place to stop this devastating process. Currently, 47 per cent of the Amazon biome is under some guise of protection. UN Environment along with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Wildlife Fund, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and Network of National Parks (Redparques) are developing a project called the Amazon Ecosystem Conservation Vision.

Financed with US$5 million by the European Union since 2014, the project intends to create a network of protected areas in the Amazon to be able to boost the ecosystems' resilience when faced with the effects of climate change.

The project’s key aim is increased ecosystem resilience by maintaining the provision of goods and services which benefit biodiversity, communities and local economies in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana (France), Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.

This initiative will engage in activities related to conservation, governance, financial sustainability, and the effectiveness of managing protected areas. It is also expected to define priority landscapes, one in the north and the other in the south of Amazonia, and to implement action plans for their conservation. The northern landscape occupies some 43,000 km2 and is located in portions of Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia. The southern landscape is located in portions of Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia and encompasses an area of more than 128,000 km2.

Protected areas are considered to be one of the best strategies to conserve biological diversity. They can serve as important reservoirs of natural capital. A global network of protected areas - where human activities are managed so as to preserve the structure and function of the full range of ecosystems - is one of the best ways to continue to obtain benefits for present and future generations, with the ultimate objective of achieving a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss.

For more information, please contact:

UN Environment Communications Unit, Latin America and the Caribbean, [email protected]. (507) 305-3182, Ciudad de Panamá, Panamá.