Thursday, January 18, 2018

Peru Declares a New National Park

After a protracted struggle by indigenous groups to protect unspoiled rain forest in the Peruvian Amazon basin, the government declared Yaguas National Park in the Loreto region that covers more the 868,000 hectares (2.14 million acres) of rain forest that is habitat for 550 freshwater fish species alone, one of the richest diversity of freshwater fish in the world.  Yaguas also shelters 500 species of birds and 160 species of mammals.  The culmination of a thirty year struggle is the indigenous peoples' gift to world say tribal leaders.  Yaguas speaking tribes that live there consider the area sacred and refer to it as "sachamamma".  The government spent considerable effort in quantify the economic benefit of a new national park.  It considered the preservation of species for subsistence hunting to be worth $5.2 million in savings.  That figure is based on the white tipped peccary, a mammal classified as vulnerable by ICUN, and is also a major element of local diets.  The value of the Park's carbon absorption is estimated at 1.5 million tons in the next twenty years.  The new park is as big as Yellowstone National Park in the US.

Beyond merely absorbing carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen into the atmosphere, in tact rainforest emit a variety of reactive gases that actually cool the atmosphere.  Anyone that lives close to a wooded area or forest can attest to this temperature effect.  The new study published in Nature Communications, by researchers from Leeds University in the UK estimates that loss of these forest emissions could contribute to global warming by as much as 14%.

The conservation news from Peru is not all positive. Contemporaneously with the creation of Yaguas National Park, proposed road development in the basin could cause the loss of 680,000 acres of Amazon forest.  The government approved last year a slew of roads along the border with Brazil in the Ucayali and Madre de Dios regions.  The main road of 172 miles puts at risk primary rain forest in protected and indigenous reserves.  A 2014 study of deforestation in Brazil found that 95% of clearances occur within in 3 miles of a road or waterway.  Deforestation along the existing Interoceanic Highway has a deforested zone ten kilometers wide along its route. Peru’s Ministry of Culture warned that newly proposed road would have big impacts on indigenous communities living in voluntary isolation in their reserves.