National Institute of Amazonian Research

Manaus, Brazil

National Institute of Amazonian Research

Manaus, Brazil

The Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, originally called the Minimum Critical Size of Ecosystems Project is a large-scale ecological experiment looking at the effects of habitat fragmentation on tropical rainforest; it is one of the most expensive biology experiments ever run. The experiment, which was established in 1979 is located near Manaus, in the Brazilian Amazon. The project is jointly managed by the Smithsonian Institution and INPA, the Brazilian Institute for Research in the Amazon.The project was initiated in 1979 by Thomas Lovejoy to investigate the SLOSS debate. Initially named the Minimum Critical Size of Ecosystems Project, the project created forest fragments of sizes 1 hectare , 10 hectares , and 100 hectares . Data were collected prior to the creation of the fragments and studies of the effects of fragmentation now exceed 25 years.As of October 2010 562 publications and 143 graduate dissertations and theses had emerged from the project. Wikipedia.

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News Article | June 14, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Building the hundreds of hydroelectric dams proposed for the Amazon River Basin will cause massive environmental damage all the way from the eastern slopes of the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean, according to new findings by an international team of researchers that includes a University of Arizona hydrologist. The Amazon River and its watershed--the largest river system on Earth--cover 6.1 million square kilometers (2.4 million square miles) and includes nine countries. "The Amazon is the most important river basin on the planet. It's a microcosm of our issues of today involving environment, energy and health of the planet," said co-author Victor Baker, University of Arizona Regents' Professor of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences. The 428 current and proposed dams will have environmental impacts throughout the entire system, the team reports in the June 15 issue of the journal Nature. About one-third of the 428 dams are built or are under construction. While these hydroelectric dams have been justified for providing renewable energy and avoiding carbon emissions, little attention has been paid to the major disturbances dams present to the Amazon floodplains, rainforests, the northeast coast of South America and the regional climate, the researchers write. Generally, only the local environmental impact of a dam is considered, not the regional or system-wide effect. "The river and its individual pieces cannot be separated out," Baker said. "That an individual dam assessment can be separated from the rest of the system isn't scientifically valid." The research team conducted a large-scale assessment of how the current and future dams will affect the entire Amazon Basin. The researchers developed a Dam Environmental Vulnerability Index to quantify their assessment. The DEVI ranges from one to 100, with 100 being the most vulnerable. The DEVI incorporates overall changes to the river systems from dams, including the potential land use changes, erosion, runoff, changes in sediment deposition, the effects on the region's rich biodiversity and impacts to the regional food supply. The researchers found the watershed of the Madeira River, the largest Amazon tributary, will sustain the greatest negative impacts from the current and future dams. The team assigned that region a DEVI above 80. Lead author Edgardo Latrubesse, a geography and the environment professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said, "The impacts can be not only regional, but also on an interhemispheric scale. If all the planned dams in the basin are constructed, their cumulative effect will trigger a change in sediment flowing into the Atlantic Ocean that may hinder the regional climate." The paper by Latrubesse, Baker and their 14 colleagues is titled, "Damming the Rivers of the Amazon Basin." A complete list of authors and their affiliations is at the bottom of this news release. The National Science Foundation, NASA, the National Geographic Society, LLILAS-Mellon, the Brazilian Council for Scientific and Technological Development-CNPq and CAPES Foundation funded the research. Rivers in the Amazon Basin move like a dance, exchanging sediments across continental distances to deliver nutrients to a mosaic of wetlands, Latrubesse said. Sediment transported by rivers provides nutrients that sustain wildlife, contribute to the regional food supplies and modulate river dynamics that result in high habitat and biotic diversity for both aquatic and nonaquatic organisms. Many current and proposed dams are located far upstream in the Andean region. Research indicates the Andes provide more than 90 percent of the sediment to the entire Amazon Basin. Dams trap the nutrient-rich sediment and prevent it from moving downstream. The Madeira River is home to the most diverse fish population in the Amazon. Since the huge Santo Antônio and Jiaru dams were constructed on the Madeira, the river's average sediment concentration decreased by 20 percent. Researchers expect the 25 dams planned for further upstream will trap additional nutrient-rich sediment behind them. The largest preserved mangrove region of South America is along the coastline of northeast Brazil and the three Guianas and needs sediment from the Amazon, Latrubesse said. Baker added that the cumulative impacts from the dams affect rainfall and storm patterns from the Amazon Basin to the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to changes in sediment flow, those impacts include the storage of water behind the dams, the water flows and the timing of flows to the mouth of the river. The study's authors conclude, "Citizens of the Amazon Basin countries will ultimately have to decide whether hydropower generation is worth the price of causing profound damage to the most diverse and productive river system in the world. If those decisions are made within the context of a comprehensive understanding of the fluvial system as a whole, the many benefits the rivers provide to humans and the environment could be retained." The authors of the paper, "Damming the rivers of the Amazon Basin," are: Edgardo M. Latrubesse of the University of Texas at Austin and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; Eugenio Y. Arima of the University of Texas at Austin; Thomas Dunne of the University of California at Santa Barbara; Edward Park of the University of Texas at Austin; Victor R. Baker of the University of Arizona, Tucson; Fernando M. d'Horta of the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA), Manaus, Brazil; Charles Wight of the University of Texas at Austin; Florian Wittmann of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Rastatt, Germany and Duke University, Durham, North Carolina; Jansen Zuanon of the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA), Manaus, Brazil; Paul A. Baker of Duke University, Durham, North Carolina and Yachay Tech, Urcuquí, Ecuador; Camila C. Ribas of the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA), Manaus, Brazil; Richard B. Norgaard of the University of California at Berkeley; Naziano Filizola of the Federal University of Amazonas, Manaus, Brazil; Atif Ansar and Bent Flyvbjerg of the University of Oxford, UK; and Jose C. Stevaux of the State University of Sao Paulo (UNESP-Rio Claro), Rio Claro, Brazil.


Fearnside P.M.,National Institute of Amazonian Research
Climatic Change | Year: 2013

Issues left undecided at COP-18 in Doha in December 2012 are critical to containing the two greatest threats to Brazil's Amazon forest: direct deforestation and forest loss through drought and fire provoked by climate change. Brazil's diplomatic positions on the role of tropical forests in mitigating global warming currently call for receiving donations through a voluntary fund, but without generating carbon credit valid against emissions-reduction commitments by countries that accept limits on their national emissions (i.e., Annex I countries). Brazil has long rejected accepting a target (assigned amount), and has instead presented a non-binding "voluntary objective." At COP-17 in Durban, Brazil expressed willingness to accept a commitment after 2020, but only if all of the rest of the world agreed to do the same. This author argues that Brazil's national interests would be better served by accepting a target now and by supporting fully marketable carbon credit from Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). The global goal of preventing mean temperature from increasing beyond 2 °C above pre-industrial levels would be much more likely to be achieved in practice with tropical forests fully included in a carbon market as part of an agreement for the period after 2012. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


Fearnside P.M.,National Institute of Amazonian Research
Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change | Year: 2013

Carbon credit is granted to hydroelectric dams under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the assumptions that (1) the dams would not be built without CDM funding and (2) over the 7 to 10-year duration of the projects the dams would have minimal emissions as compared to the fossil fuel-generated electricity they displace. Both of these assumptions are false, especially in the case of tropical dams such as those planned in Amazonia. Brazil's Teles Pires Dam, now under construction, provides a concrete example indicating the need for reform of CDM regulations by eliminating credit for hydroelectric dams. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.


Magnusson W.E.,National Institute of Amazonian Research
Nature Conservation | Year: 2014

There are many techniques to deal with uncertainty when modeling data. However, there are many forms of uncertainty that cannot be dealt with mathematically that have to be taken into account when designing a biodiversity monitoring system. Some of these can be minimized by careful planning and quality control, but others have to be investigated during monitoring, and the scale and methods adjusted when necessary to meet objectives. Sources of uncertainty include uncertainty about stakeholders, who will monitor, what to sample, where to sample, causal relationships, species identifications, detectability, distributions, relationships with remote sensing, biotic concordance, complementarity, validity of stratification, and data quality and management. Failure to take into account any of these sources of uncertainty about how the data will be used can make monitoring nothing more than monitoring for the sake of monitoring, and I make recommendations as to how to reduce uncertainties. Some form of standardization is necessary, despite the multiple sources of uncertainty, and experience from RAPELD and other monitoring schemes indicates that spatial standardization is viable and helps reduce many sources of uncertainty. Copyright William E Magnusson.


Fearnside P.M.,National Institute of Amazonian Research
Environmental Science and Policy | Year: 2015

Tropical hydroelectric emissions are undercounted in national inventories of greenhouse gases under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), giving them a role in undermining the effectiveness of as-yet undecided emission limits. These emissions are also largely left out of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation, and have been excluded from a revision of the IPCC guidelines on wetlands. The role of hydroelectric dams in emissions inventories and in mitigation has been systematically ignored. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


Fearnside P.M.,National Institute of Amazonian Research
Environmental Science and Policy | Year: 2014

The Santo AntÔnio and Jirau dams, under construction on the Madeira River, will have significant impacts, including flooding in Bolivia due to the Jirau reservoir's backwater stretch. The reservoirs eliminate natural ecosystems, and the dams block fish migration affecting both biodiversity and commercial production, especially of the giant catfish of the Madeira River that are important resources in Bolivia and Peru as well as Brazil. Changes in flooding regimes in downstream várzea (floodplain) lakes will also affect fisheries. Mercury methylation and greenhouse-gas emissions are additional problems. The reservoirs form part of a planned series of waterways that, if completed, would open large areas in Bolivian Amazonia to soybeans, thus stimulating deforestation. The dams have significant social impacts, including displacing riverside population and eliminating livelihoods from fishing. Despite the technical staff responsible for environmental licensing having submitted a formal opinion considering these concerns to be exceedingly serious and insufficiently studied to authorize dam construction, political appointees approved the licenses. The Madeira Dams offer important lessons for environmental control in Brazil and in many other countries facing similar challenges. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.


Fearnside P.M.,National Institute of Amazonian Research
Water Alternatives | Year: 2013

The Madeira River, an Amazon tributary draining parts of Bolivia, Peru and Brazil, has one of the highest sediment loads in the world. The questions of how these sediments would affect the Santo Antônio and Jirau hydroelectric dams, now under construction in Brazil, and how the dams would affect sediment flows, have been the subject of an extended controversy associated with the environmental licensing of the dams. Shortly before licensing the dams, the official scenario changed completely from one in which sediments would accumulate rapidly but could be contained without damage to dam operation, to one in which there would be no accumulation of sediments at all. The uncertainty of this scenario is very high. Under political pressure, the technical staff of the licensing department was overridden and the dams were licensed and built without resolving a variety of controversies, including the question of sediments. Valuable lessons from the Madeira River sediment controversy could contribute to improving decision making on dams and other major development projects in Brazil and in many other countries.


Fearnside P.M.,National Institute of Amazonian Research
Climate Policy | Year: 2012

Brazil's Amazon rainforest provides an important environmental service with its storage of carbon, thereby reducing global warming. A growing number of projects and proposals intend to reward carbon storage services. Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation is currently a key issue for negotiations on an international agreement that is to take effect in 2013. Various issues require decisions that will have substantial impacts on both the effectiveness of mitigation and the scale of Amazonia's potential role. These decisions include the effects that money generated from payments can have, the spatial scale of mitigation (e.g. projects or countries and sub-national political units), whether to have voluntary or mandatory markets, and whether these reductions will generate carbon credits to offset emissions elsewhere. It is argued that national-level programmes, combined with a national target under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, are the best solution for Brazil in terms of both capturing international funding and stimulating the major cuts in global emissions that are needed to minimize climate risk to the Amazon rainforest. The high likelihood of passing a tipping point for maintaining the Amazon rainforest implies the need for urgency in altering current negotiating positions. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.


Fearnside P.M.,National Institute of Amazonian Research
Climatic Change | Year: 2015

When carbon credit is granted for projects that would occur irrespective of any subsidy based on mitigation of global warming, the projects generate “hot air,” or credit without a real climate benefit. This is the case for tropical hydroelectric dams, which are now a major destination for funds under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The countries that purchase the credit generated by dams can emit more greenhouse gases without their being offset by genuine mitigation. The limited funds available for mitigation are also wasted on subsidizing dams that would be built anyway. Tropical dams also emit substantially more greenhouse gases than are recognized in CDM accounting procedures. Tropical hydroelectric emissions are also undercounted in national inventories of greenhouse gases under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, giving them a role in undermining the effectiveness of as-yet undecided emission limits. Brazil’s Santo Antônio Dam, now under construction on the Madeira River, provides a concrete example indicating the need for reform of CDM regulations by eliminating credit for hydroelectric dams. © 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


Fearnside P.M.,National Institute of Amazonian Research
Ambio | Year: 2015

Brazil plans to build 43 “large” dams (>30 MW) in the Tapajós Basin, ten of which are priorities for completion by 2022. Impacts include flooding indigenous lands and conservation units. The Tapajós River and two tributaries (the Juruena and Teles Pires Rivers) are also the focus of plans for waterways to transport soybeans from Mato Grosso to ports on the Amazon River. Dams would allow barges to pass rapids and waterfalls. The waterway plans require dams in a continuous chain, including the Chacorão Dam that would flood 18 700 ha of the Munduruku Indigenous Land. Protections in Brazil’s constitution and legislation and in international conventions are easily neutralized through application of “security suspensions,” as has already occurred during licensing of several dams currently under construction in the Tapajós Basin. Few are aware of “security suspensions,” resulting in little impetus to change these laws. © 2015, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

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