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Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

December 08, 2016

Scientists from WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), The Nature Conservancy, and several partners in Brazil and Peru have produced a geographic information system (GIS) "roadmap" to help guide conservation efforts at large scale in the Amazon River basin, a region roughly the size of the United States.

The new spatial framework--created with several major data sets and GIS technology -- is made up of a new hydrological and river basin classification, along with various spatial analysis tools, that can be used to better understand and mitigate the synergistic effects of deforestation and new or planned highways and dams across the Amazon Basin.

The paper titled "An explicit GIS-based river basin framework for aquatic ecosystem conservation in the Amazon" appears in the most recent edition of the journal Earth System Science Data. The authors are: Eduardo Venticinque of Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte; Bruce Forsberg of the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia; Ronaldo B. Barthem of the Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi; Paulo Petry of The Nature Conservancy; Laura Hess of the Earth Research Institute; Armando Mercado, Carlos Cañas, Mariana Montoya, Carlos Durigan, and Michael Goulding of WCS.

See the spatial framework database here, the paper here, and a one-pager on the tool here.

"The new spatial framework provides a dynamic way to map natural resources and possible infrastructure impacts on them at various scalable levels in the Amazon, one prime example being fisheries and fish migrations and the far-flung wetlands that support them," said Eduardo Venticinque of Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, the lead author of the study.

"This new tool will enable scientists and governments to monitor development initiatives across the Amazon basin and help guide policy to minimize the environmental impact of these activities," said WCS scientist Michael Goulding.

The Amazon is home to the most biodiverse rainforest on Earth, as well as the greatest freshwater system in the world. The region also supports what is likely the largest assemblage of wetlands in the world, a mosaic that ranges from seasonally flooded forests that cover most of the floodplains to immense savannas inundated for many months each year. The region is also considering a number of infrastructure development projects that could significantly impact the hydrology of the Amazon Basin and its fauna and flora. Conservation efforts typically focus on creating and strengthening protected areas and indigenous territories in the Amazon, with little focus on the aquatic systems. The new framework will help focus conservation and management efforts on waters and wetlands and the important resources they contain, including more than 2,400 species of fish, to promote a more integrated and large-scale approach to protecting the Amazon Basin.

In order to create a river basin classification system--one that could be used to serve the needs of conservation and monitoring--the scientists divided the river basin into a number of sub-basins defined by 11 different stream orders ranging from tiny streams to the Amazon River itself. Seven distinct levels of basins were defined, with the main Amazon Basin as Level 1, and larger tributary sub-basins such as the Ucayali and the Madeira as Level 2, and so on.
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This research was conducted by the Amazon Waters Initiative expert working group supported by Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP), a partnership of The Nature Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The Amazon Waters Initiative is generously supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas, USAID, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)

MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world's oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.

The Science for Nature and People Partnership Founded in 2013, the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) is the world's premier innovation engine of conservation science and sustainable development policy, partnering with public, non-profit and private sector organizations around the world to transform the relationship between people and nature. Backed by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara, SNAPP funds, convenes and supports Expert Working Groups addressing challenges in four focus areas: Food Security and Nature, Water Security and Nature, Community Resilience and Climate Change, and Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Benefits. SNAPP has been generously supported by Angela Nomellini and Ken Olivier, Shirley and Harry Hagey, Steve and Roberta Denning, Seth Neiman, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. For more information, visit http://snappartnership.net/

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the Bay Area. Visit http://www.moore.org or follow @MooreFound.

The U.S. Agency for International Development administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world's most pressing social challenges, including over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk, and significantly increasing capital for the social sector. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and responsive democracy; the strength and vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago; and generating new knowledge about critical issues.

Wildlife Conservation Society

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