Peru

Peru lost more than 1 million hectares of Amazon forest over a period of 15 years

Peru lost more than 1 million hectares of Amazon forest over a period of 15 years

Technology has become a headache for those who indiscriminately clear forest in the Peruvian Amazon. Until a few years ago, it was thought that deforesting an area of primary forest in a secluded, remote area could not be discovered by authorities or experts. Today the use of high-resolution satellite images confirms that it is possible to detect in real time where forests are being cleared. You can even determine the main drivers. The Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), through more than 50 reports published between April 2015 and November 2016, has contributed to the use of the technology and updated the data of the historical record of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon. The total figure is enough to send a cold chill down the spine: 1.8 million hectares of Amazonian forests were lost between 2001 and 2015.

Peaks of loss occurred in 2005, 2009 and 2014. While official figures show a decline in deforestation levels, a preliminary estimate for 2016 by MAAP indicates that the problem has not changed much compared to 2014, the year in which one of the highest levels of forest loss was recorded —more than 177,000 hectares.

In February, MAAP presented a second report called Synthesis #2 “Patterns and drivers of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon,” in which it outlined six of the main causes of forest loss: deforestation and soil degradation, small and medium-scale agriculture, large-scale agriculture, pasture for livestock, gold mining, coca cultivation and road construction.

Map showing the main causes of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon. Data: MAAP, SERNANP
Map showing the main causes of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon. Data: MAAP, SERNANP

Small-scale agriculture, which develops in areas with less than 5 hectares, is responsible for 80 percent of the deforestation recorded in the Peruvian Amazon, between 2001 and 2015. Meanwhile, medium-scale agriculture can occupy between 5 and 50 hectares and represents 16 percent. According to Matt Finer, MAAP’s forestry researcher, “The trend for deforestation remains problematic; we are at an interesting time when deforestation dropped in 2015 compared to 2014, it’s good news, but the bad news is that this level is still very high, the second highest in the historical record.”

Data: PNCB/MINAM, UMD/GLAD. *Estimation based on GLAD alerts
Data: PNCB/MINAM, UMD/GLAD. *Estimation based on GLAD alerts

According to Finer, controlling small and medium-sized agriculture will be a challenge for the government. Some of the cases that have been detected are small and medium-scale oil palm plantations in Huánuco, Ucayali and Loreto; cacao crops east of Madre de Dios; and the fields of papaya, corn and rice along the Interoceanic Highway, also in Madre de Dios.

“The vast majority (of deforestation) is of small and medium scale, which is difficult to control. It is the first time we understand that this is the pattern and I think it will take time to develop policies to tackle it. Usually it is easier to focus on large-scale deforestation because there is a company behind…

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