Deforestation causes ‘boom-and-bust’ development in Amazon

June 12th, 2009 - 12:27 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 12 (ANI): A new research has suggested that clearing the Amazon rainforest increases Brazilian communities’ wealth and quality of life, but these improvements are short-lived, and the situation results to square one, in a ‘boom and bust’ situation.

The study, by an international team including researchers at the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London, shows that levels of development revert back to well below national average levels when the loggers and land clearers move on.

Since 2000, 155 thousand square kilometres of rainforest in the Brazilian Amazon have been cut down for timber, burnt, or cleared for agricultural use.

Forest clearance rates have averaged more than 1.8 million hectares per year, and the deforestation frontier is advancing into the forest at a rate of more than four football fields every minute.

The team behind the study analyzed changes in the average life expectancy, literacy and per capita income of people living in 286 Brazilian Amazon municipalities with varying levels of deforestation.

The researchers’ analysis revealed that the quality of local people’s lives, measured through levels of income, literacy and longevity, as mentioned above, increases quickly during the early stages of deforestation.

This is probably because people capitalize on newly available natural resources, including timber, minerals and land for pasture, and higher incomes and new roads lead to improved access to education and medical care, and all round better living conditions.

However, the new results suggest that these improvements are transitory, and the level of development returns to below the national average once the area’s natural resources have been exploited and the deforestation frontier expands to virgin land.

Quality of life pre- and post-deforestation was both substantially lower than the Brazilian national average, and was indistinguishable from one another.

According to Ana Rodrigues, lead author of the study, “The Amazon is globally recognized for its unparalleled natural value, but it is also a very poor region. It is generally assumed that replacing the forest with crops and pastureland is the best approach for fulfilling the region’s legitimate aspirations to development. This study tested that assumption.”

“We found although the deforestation frontier does bring initial improvements in income, life expectancy, and literacy, such gains are not sustained,” she said.

“The ‘boom’ in development that deforestation brings to these areas is clear, but our data show that in the long run these benefits are not sustained. Along with environmental concerns, this is another good reason to restrict further deforestation in the Amazon,” said Dr Rob Ewers from Imperial College London’s Department of Life Sciences. (ANI)

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