Amazon deforestation leads to economic boom and bust

时间:2019-03-08 06:02:05166网络整理admin

By Catherine Brahic Amazon villages that cut down their forest may make a quick buck, but ultimately end up just as poor and low down on the social ladder as when they started out, say researchers. A study of nearly 300 communities in the Brazilian Amazon shows that deforestation leads to social and economic “boom and bust”. Ana Rodrigues of the Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology in Montpellier, France, and colleagues say the Brazilian government needs to find ways of hoisting Amazon communities out of poverty without relying on deforestation. In the study, the researchers used data on life expectancy, and levels of income and education from 286 municipalities in the Amazon. They grouped the communities depending on how much they had deforested their land, ranging from those that lived in pristine or near-pristine forest to those that had completely deforested their village area. In the middle were communities located at the “frontier” of deforestation, where cutting, clearing and logging activities were on-going. Grouping the communities in this way meant the researchers were able to compare the income, life expectancy and education levels according to how extensively the regions were deforested. “We found that the level of development in a region that has been through deforestation is indistinguishable from in a region prior to deforestation,” says Robert Ewers of Imperial College London. The data showed that although welfare rapidly improves during deforestation, this socio-economic boom is short-lived. Moreoever, a region that is being deforested attracts migrants eager to make a quick buck or set up a farm. Not all of these leave once the forest is cut down, so once the wave of deforestation has passed through a community, it is more populated than before. The researchers say the boom is probably due to a number of factors, including better roads and therefore better access to healthcare and schools. For a short while, the community benefits from the natural resources of the forest, and makes money off the timber and the farms that are set up in the cleared lands. But the soil is rapidly degraded making farming and cattle ranching unsustainable. “A lot of that land ends up being abandoned,” says Ewers. “The small scale cattle ranchers are likely to move on.” Large farms do persist but “my guess is that a lot of that income goes to a wealthy few,” he adds. Because the soil is degraded, farms – mostly large soy farms – can only survive by importing fertilisers. They also tend to be highly mechanised and so do not employ many local people. “The alternative is to compensate for non-deforestation,” says Rodrigues. She hopes that UN negotiations seeking to set up a way of financially rewarding regions that maintain their forest may lead to more sustainable socio-economic booms and fewer busts. James Mayers, a forestry expert at the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development, says it would be interesting to see what happens to areas decades after they have been deforested. He points out that in the long term farmers who stick around learn that they need to sustain the natural resources in order to survive and that checks and balances and local institutions such as farmers collectives that encourage sustainable farming take a while to establish themselves. Journal reference: Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.1174002) More on these topics: