“This means that international recognition and investment in indigenous and protected areas are essential to ensuring their continued contribution to global climate stability,” said Richard Chase Smith, of Peru’s Instituto Bien Comun. Smith also noted that social conflict in Peru and other Amazonian countries would continue to escalate if governments failed to ensure secure land tenure for their indigenous peoples.
“If all the current plans for economic development in the Amazon are actually implemented, the region would become a giant savanna, with islands of forest,” said Beto Ricardo, of the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) of Brazil. “A vast proportion of indigenous territories and protected areas are increasingly at risk, with potentially disastrous consequences, “including 40% of the indigenous territories, 30% of the protected areas, and 24% of the area that pertains to both.”
In summarizing the implications of their study, the authors conclude that in the near term, maintaining the stability of the atmosphere, together with the range of globally significant environmental and social services provided by Amazonian forests, will depend on whether governments choose to adopt policies that ensure the ecological integrity of indigenous territories and protected areas. Continued destruction of these carbon-rich ecosystems will gradually diminish their ability to function properly, the study says, resulting in a detrimental and potentially irreversible impact on the atmosphere and the planet.
“The solution is to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples to territories that have not yet been officially recognized, and resolve territorial conflicts that pit protected areas against private interests,” said Steve Schwartzman, author and Senior Director of Tropical Forest Policy at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
The study was carried out with participation from the Woods Hole Research Center, the Amazonian Network of Geo-referenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG), the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA) and Environmental Defense Fund. It was made possible through the financial support of the World Bank, Rainforest Foundation Norway, Ford Foundation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
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The Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) is an independent research institute where scientists collaborate to examine the drivers and impacts of climate change and identify opportunities for conservation around the globe.