Why saving the Peruvian Amazon rainforest is important

Ric Porteus

Ric Porteus

Image of a young peruvian woman in the peruvian amazon rainforest

We are going to chat about Peruvian Amazon rainforest and it’s importance to the world. We’ll first cover why the Peruvian Amazon rainforest is important to the communities of indigenous that call it home.  Then we’ll also discuss the biodiversity of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest and the challenges that face it.  We’ll also discuss the importance of the solutions to those challenges, with partners the Rainforest Trust, and the CEDIA.  

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The world’s largest tropical forest spanning eight countries

The Amazonia is the world’s largest tropical forest and spans eight countries in South America. After Brazil, Peru has the greatest extension of this biome which represents more than half of the surface of the country. The Loreto and Ucayali Regions are the two largest Amazon regions in Peru and are traditionally occupied and protected by indigenous groups. Unfortunately, hundreds of indigenous communities have no recognized ownership rights and their lands are under tremendous pressure from logging and agro-industries. Without the titles to their territories, native communities have no legal instrument to defend these lands.

Our conservation partners Rainforest Trust and local partner Center for the Development of an Indigenous Amazon (CEDIA) seeks to title 220 communities covering more than six million acres to legally protect indigenous lands. It is crucial to close the unprotected gaps between indigenous territories to prevent industries from negatively affecting the integrity of the ecosystems. In addition to granting communities the rights to their land, this will provide protection for endangered species. Species such as the White-bellied Spider Monkey, Giant Otter and Black-faced Black Spider Monkey.

Indigenous Tribe in the peruvian amazon rainforest

A. Biodiversity

The Amazonia is the most biodiverse biome on the planet, with diversity hotspots occurring in the western part of the Amazon basin (also known as Andes-Amazonia). Through this ambitious conservation initiative, protection will span five different and threatened eco-regions. These are the Ucayali moist forests, Napo moist forests, Southwest Amazon moist forests, Iquitos Várzea and Solimões Japurá moist forests.

The project site is in the southern part of Loreto and throughout the Ucayali Region all the way to the foothills of the Andes. Many threatened species are dependent on the project site, including primates such as the Endangered White-bellied Spider Monkey and Black-faced Black Spider Monkey. Also at threat are large mammals such as the Endangered Giant Otter and Vulnerable Lowland Tapir, and reptiles such as the Vulnerable Yellow-footed Tortoise and Yellow-spotted River Turtle. Roughly 600 bird species, 140 amphibian species and more than 60 large mammal species are dependent on the Amazon landscape.

There are thousands of plant species in this region. Inventories in the Matsés National Reserve and the Sierra del Divisor National Park estimate between 3,000-4,000 plant species. In the area located between the Ucayali and Tapiche rivers, there is a large wetland. This includes several different ecosystems such as white sand forests, peat deposits, savannas and some islands of upland forests.

Image of a Lemur native to the local amazon rainforest

B. Challenges

The lack of recognized indigenous land titles promotes the idea that these are empty areas that are available for exploitation. This in turn generates conflicts among the indigenous groups trying to defend their territories within the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, and the colonists wanting to develop exploitative activities.

The major threats to these areas are logging, mining, oil and gas extraction and colonization for agriculture. These activities are closely related to the lack of land property legalization or usage rights in areas occupied by indigenous groups. Land titles will give the rights for the legal management of the territories and resources to communities. Who will also take on the responsibility for their care in accordance with the law. 

C. Communities

The cornerstone of Rainforest Trust and CEDIA’s work in the Amazon is empowering local communities. To continue this endeavour, we aim, along with Rainforest Trust and CEDIA, to secure legally recognized land titles for 220 communities from dozens of indigenous tribes. This will ensure that they become the rightful owners of their territories and legal guardians of the natural resources. As part of this, we will help develop “life plans” — legally recognized instruments — for communities, which consist of self-diagnoses divided into seven dimensions of community life.  Such as culture, economic resources and natural resource use. This also includes sustainable activities and a monitoring plan to ensure lasting protection.

D. Solutions

It is urgent for One Tribe, Rainforest Trust and CEDIA to help initiate the property legalization actions to save indigenous lands in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. Actions which will directly help native communities and prevent the selling of mining and timber concessions to companies wanting to exploit these lands. Titling these lands to indigenous communities will provide them with the right for sustainable natural resource administration. It will also grant them the legal responsibility to safeguard it against illegal activities.

Image of the peruvian amazon rainforest from the forest ground, looking up into the treeline

Through agreements with regional authorities, CEDIA will conduct a comprehensive survey to identify the native communities that still lack land titles. Rainforest Trust will then support all the mandated legal and technical procedures required to ensure that indigenous lands can be titled and recognized. Once titled, we will ensure that communities are empowered to be stewards of their land through the implementation of management plans that regulate land use and allocate communal land sections for strict protection. Supporting indigenous communities in the management of their natural resources not only leads to long-term habitat protection but ensures that they do not have to relocate due to the pressures of colonization.

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