Oil and gas projects in the Western Amazon: threats to wilderness, biodiversity, and indigenous peoples.

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2008-08-13

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: The western Amazon is the most biologically rich part of the Amazon basin and is home to a great diversity of indigenous ethnic groups, including some of the world's last uncontacted peoples living in voluntary isolation. Unlike the eastern Brazilian Amazon, it is still a largely intact ecosystem. Underlying this landscape are large reserves of oil and gas, many yet untapped. The growing global demand is leading to unprecedented exploration and development in the region. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We synthesized information from government sources to quantify the status of oil development in the western Amazon. National governments delimit specific geographic areas or "blocks" that are zoned for hydrocarbon activities, which they may lease to state and multinational energy companies for exploration and production. About 180 oil and gas blocks now cover approximately 688,000 km(2) of the western Amazon. These blocks overlap the most species-rich part of the Amazon. We also found that many of the blocks overlap indigenous territories, both titled lands and areas utilized by peoples in voluntary isolation. In Ecuador and Peru, oil and gas blocks now cover more than two-thirds of the Amazon. In Bolivia and western Brazil, major exploration activities are set to increase rapidly. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Without improved policies, the increasing scope and magnitude of planned extraction means that environmental and social impacts are likely to intensify. We review the most pressing oil- and gas-related conservation policy issues confronting the region. These include the need for regional Strategic Environmental Impact Assessments and the adoption of roadless extraction techniques. We also consider the conflicts where the blocks overlap indigenous peoples' territories.

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10.1371/journal.pone.0002932

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Finer, Matt, Clinton N Jenkins, Stuart L Pimm, Brian Keane and Carl Ross (2008). Oil and gas projects in the Western Amazon: threats to wilderness, biodiversity, and indigenous peoples. PLoS One, 3(8). p. e2932. 10.1371/journal.pone.0002932 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/4501.

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Pimm

Stuart L. Pimm

Doris Duke Distinguished Professor of Conservation Ecology in the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences

Stuart Pimm is a world leader in the study of present-day extinctions and what can be done to prevent them. His research covers the reasons why species become extinct, how fast they do so, the global patterns of habitat loss and species extinction and, importantly, the management consequences of this research. Pimm received his BSc degree from Oxford University in 1971 and his Ph.D. from New Mexico State University in 1974. Pimm is the author of over 350 scientific papers and five books. He is one of the most highly cited environmental scientists. Pimm wrote the highly acclaimed assessment of the human impact to the planet: The World According to Pimm: a Scientist Audits the Earth in 2001. His commitment to the interface between science and policy has led to his testimony to both House and Senate Committees on the re-authorization of the Endangered Species Act. He was worked and taught in Africa for nearly 30 years on elephants, most recently lions — through National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative — but always on topics that relate to the conservation of wildlife and the ecosystems on which they depend. Other research areas include the Everglades of Florida and tropical forests in South America, especially the Atlantic Coast forest of Brazil and the northern Andes — two of the world's "hotspots" for threatened species. His international honours include the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2010), the Dr. A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2006), the Society for Conservation Biology’s Edward T. LaRoe III Memorial Award (2006), and the Marsh Award for Conservation Biology, from the Marsh Christian Trust (awarded by the Zoological Society of London in 2004). Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, awarded him the William Proctor Prize for Scientific Achievement in 2007. In 2019, he won the International Cosmos Prize, which recognised his founding and directing Saving Nature, www.savingnature.org, a non-profit that uses donations for carbon emissions offsets to fund local conservation groups in areas of exceptional tropical biodiversity to restore their degraded lands. 


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