Nav: Home

Colombia peace deal brings new threat to country's rainforest

July 19, 2018

A historic peace treaty which brought an end to half a century of violence has led to mass deforestation in Colombia, scientists have warned.

The 2016 peace deal formally ended 52 years of civil war in Colombia that left at least 220,000 dead and more than seven million people displaced.

After four years of talks, a treaty was signed between the Colombian Government and guerrilla groups including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Their main founders were small farmers and land workers who had banded together to fight inequality in Colombia.

During the civil war, an ecologically significant region of Colombia, which researchers have named the Andes-Amazon 'biodiversity bridge' was a dangerous 'no go' area because it was controlled by FARC soldiers. The 'bridge' got its name because it links the Amazon rainforest to the Andes and contains hugely significant ecosystems, spans three national parks and is the home of thousands of rare and exotic species, some of which have been there for 22 million years.

Once the FARC soldiers were disarmed, it led to a vacuum of power which is being exploited by large landowners who are now deforesting the area at an alarming rate to make way for farms and for the illegal growth of coca crops. Official Colombian sources reported that in 2017, 219,973 hectares of forest were lost from the region - the equivalent of 35 football pitches every hour.

An international group of conservationists and scientists from Colombia and the UK is now urging the new Colombian Government to formally protect the area and to take urgent steps to halt the deforestation and development.

A new paper, published in Conservation Letters, summarises research into the biodiversity bridge and looks at the impact of increased levels of deforestation. Professor Chris Jiggins, one of the authors of the paper and a Fellow of St John's College, University of Cambridge, visited the area as part of his research.

He said: "This is a critical moment for Colombia - there are new threats to these areas but there's still some forest left. The systematic clearance of trees breaks an important link between the Andes and the Amazon that has played a vital role in the evolution of animals and plants. But if action is taken sooner rather than later we could preserve the area and maintain links between these irreplaceable ecosystems."

Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and the deforestation is destroying the habitats of everything from insects, bats and hummingbirds, to monkeys and bears.

Dr Nicola Clerici, first author on the paper and Associate Professor at the Universidad del Rosario in Colombia, said: "We are appealing for the attention of international conservation organisations and Governments to funnel both research and development funds and resources to promote and nourish projects focused on the preservation and sustainable management of this strategic Andes-Amazon bridge."

Felling trees in the region to create homes is also a problem for humans - it is not easy to farm on rainforest land.

Professor Jiggins added: "This is not productive agricultural land so it is not going to be an easy life for people eking out a living on these hillsides. Finding sustainable ways to give people employment would be the best solution for the people in Colombia as well as for the rainforest."

The paper urges Colombian governmental institutions to halt deforestation in the region and to work collaboratively with international conservation organisations to focus resources on the irreplaceable region and ensure it is properly protected and restored.
-end-


St John's College, University of Cambridge

Related Deforestation Articles:

Amazon basin deforestation could disrupt distant rainforest by remote climate connection
The ongoing deforestation around the fringes of the Amazon may have serious consequences for the untouched deeper parts of the rainforest.
Amazon rainforest may be more resilient to deforestation than previously thought
Taking a fresh look at evidence from satellite data, and using the latest theories from complexity science, researchers at the University of Bristol have provided new evidence to show that the Amazon rainforest is not as fragile as previously thought.
Human-induced deforestation is causing an increase in malaria cases
A new study of 67 less-developed, malaria-endemic nations led by Lehigh University sociologist Dr.
'Narco-deforestation' study links loss of Central American tropical forests to cocaine
Central American tropical forests are beginning to disappear at an alarming rate, threatening the livelihood of indigenous peoples there and endangering some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in North America.
Stanford study explores risk of deforestation as agriculture expands in Africa
Multinational companies are increasingly looking to Africa to expand production of in-demand commodity crops such as soy and oil palm.
Trade-offs between economic growth and deforestation
In many developing countries, economic growth and deforestation seem to go hand in hand -- but the links are not well understood.
Local government engagement, decentralized policies can help reduce deforestation
Empowering local governments with forestry decisions can help combat deforestation, but is most effective when local users are actively engaging with their representatives, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder-led study.
The fight against deforestation: Why are Congolese farmers clearing forest?
Only a small share of Congolese villagers is the driving force behind most of the deforestation.
Significant deforestation in Brazilian Amazon goes undetected, study finds
A new study finds that close to 9,000 square kilometers of Amazon forest was cleared from 2008 to 2012 without detection by the official government monitoring system.
Effects of past tropical deforestation will be felt for years to come
Even if people completely stopped converting tropical forests into farmland, the impacts of tropical deforestation would continue to be felt for many years to come.

Related Deforestation Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#521 The Curious Life of Krill
Krill may be one of the most abundant forms of life on our planet... but it turns out we don't know that much about them. For a create that underpins a massive ocean ecosystem and lives in our oceans in massive numbers, they're surprisingly difficult to study. We sit down and shine some light on these underappreciated crustaceans with Stephen Nicol, Adjunct Professor at the University of Tasmania, Scientific Advisor to the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies, and author of the book "The Curious Life of Krill: A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World".