Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Highway through Amazon worsens effects of climate change, provides mixed economic gains

Date:
May 31, 2012
Source:
University of Florida
Summary:
Paving a highway across South America is providing lessons on the impact of road construction elsewhere.

Paving a highway across South America is providing lessons on the impact of road construction elsewhere.

Related Articles


That's what a University of Florida researcher and his international colleagues have determined from analyzing communities along the Amazonian portion of the nearly 4,200-mile Interoceanic Highway, a coast-to-coast road that starts at ports in Brazil and will eventually connect to ones in Peru.

The results of their five-year study provide a holistic picture of the social, environmental and economic effects of the highway project, including relationships with climate change. Among the findings:

  • Highway paving facilitates migration and population growth in communities, which can result in forest clearing and conflicts over natural resources.
  • Highway paving has left the Amazon rainforest more vulnerable to clearing with fire, which results in carbon emissions.
  • Improved access to markets may give people an economic boost, however, financial security is dependent on access to a range of diverse raw materials whose availability is declining in many areas.

"The vast majority of road studies look at only one of those pieces," said Stephen Perz, a UF sociologist and lead author on the paper, which was published in March in the journal Regional Environmental Change. "But it is necessary to consider what is gained and what is lost by paving highways."

The southwestern Amazon, situated along the borders of Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru, is considered a biodiversity "hot spot" because of its extreme variety of plant and wildlife species. Scientists are creating models to better understand how paving of the Interoceanic Highway increases deforestation and degrades forest habitats in this sensitive area. Forest loss and degradation can cause an upsurge in susceptibility to future fires, which results in a forest-burning domino effect that raises carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change. At the same time, the Amazon's worsening droughts, which are also associated with climate change, make fires more dangerous to forests. Perz and his colleagues found that people are often ill-equipped to control fires by themselves and live in places that firefighters cannot access in time to extinguish outbreaks.

The Interoceanic Highway was a decades-long dream of many governments seeking to develop the Amazon and it was finally paved in 2010, although several side roads remain to be connected. The process of paving gave the researchers an opportunity to examine how a road brings opportunities as well as problems to local communities.

"For an anthropologist it's hard, because you kind of romanticize people who live sustainably," said paper author Jeffrey Hoelle, an adjunct assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado at Boulder who interviewed Brazilian families when he was a UF graduate student working on the study. "But everyone has basic needs, and if the road gets people better access to education and health care, they are going to take advantage of it."

The researchers say economic success in the region is dependent on whether the road gave people opportunities to use a diversity of materials from the rainforest and the ability to sell their products in regional markets. These factors ultimately contributed to whether communities showed resilience to rapid changes from development.

As construction continues and new roads become off-shoots from the highway, additional rainforest resources will be diminished. Previous roads through Brazil pushed rubber tappers away from their economic livelihood that once was provided by the indigenous rubber plant of the rainforest. This forced workers to relocate to local towns, where they were unprepared to find jobs, often resulting in urban poverty.

In June, world leaders will meet in Brazil at the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, otherwise known as the Rio+20, to discuss forests and patterns of production and consumption, among other topics. It comes on the heels of recent protests in Brazil about proposed reforms legalizing the deforestation of millions of acres of the Amazon. And in Peru, protests continue to surround further road development that may venture into areas inhabited by some of the country's isolated rainforest tribes. The researchers in this study are using the information they gathered to contribute to a model that governments and communities can use when planning highways to avoid some of the negative outcomes of paving.

"Is the road good or bad? It depends on who you ask and what you choose to study," Perz said. "But a broader planning approach requires an open, public process in which communities need to participate."

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Research partners in Brazil, Bolivia and Peru include the following institutions: Amazonian University of Pando, Bolivia; Federal University of Acre, Brazil; and the National Amazonian University of Madre de Dios, Peru.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stephen G. Perz, Liliana Cabrera, Lucas Araújo Carvalho, Jorge Castillo, Rosmery Chacacanta, Rosa E. Cossio, Yeni Franco Solano, Jeffrey Hoelle, Leonor Mercedes Perales, Israel Puerta, Daniel Rojas Céspedes, Ioav Rojas Camacho, Adão Costa Silva. Regional integration and local change: road paving, community connectivity, and social–ecological resilience in a tri-national frontier, southwestern Amazonia. Regional Environmental Change, 2011; 12 (1): 35 DOI: 10.1007/s10113-011-0233-x

Cite This Page:

University of Florida. "Highway through Amazon worsens effects of climate change, provides mixed economic gains." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531112618.htm>.
University of Florida. (2012, May 31). Highway through Amazon worsens effects of climate change, provides mixed economic gains. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531112618.htm
University of Florida. "Highway through Amazon worsens effects of climate change, provides mixed economic gains." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531112618.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Late Winter Storm Wreaks Havoc Across Eastern US

Late Winter Storm Wreaks Havoc Across Eastern US

AP (Mar. 5, 2015) — A strong cold front moving across the eastern U.S. has dumped deep snow in some regions, creating hazardous conditions from Kentucky to New England. (March 5) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Keurig Co-Founder Says Company Has A Waste Problem

Keurig Co-Founder Says Company Has A Waste Problem

Newsy (Mar. 5, 2015) — Keurig co-founder John Sylvan told The Atlantic he doesn&apos;t even own a Keurig because they&apos;re too expensive and produce too much waste. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) — Once nearly extinct, grey whales now migrate in their thousands to Mexico&apos;s Vizcaino reserve in Baja California, in search of warmer waters to mate and give birth. Tourists flock to the reserve to see the whales, measuring up to 49 feet long. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Injured Miners Treated After Blast

Raw: Injured Miners Treated After Blast

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) — An explosion ripped through a coal mine before dawn Wednesday in war-torn eastern Ukraine, killing at least one miner, officials said. Graphic video of injured miners being treated in a Donetsk hospital. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins