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Tracking threats to the Amazon

The Amazon Conservation Association is committed to tracking the main threats to the southwestern Amazon, with a focus on southern Peru and northern Bolivia. This threats analysis serves as a basis for our conservation strategies. Our thanks to the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC) for their support of ACA's research specialist position, which has allowed us to expand our threats monitoring capacity.

MAAP LogoIn order to assess and publicize threats to the region in near-real time, ACA has developed the Monitoring of the
Andean Amazon Project (MAAP)
, a web portal dedicated to presenting novel technical information and analysis pertaining to one of the most ecologically and socially important regions on the planet: the Andean Amazon (defined here as the sections of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru within the Amazon watershed).

The ultimate goal of MAAP is to distribute important technical information in a timely manner and in an easy to understand format. Our intended audience is policy makers, civil society, the media, and the public at large. We hope that sharing such information with these actors will contribute to changes in policy and practice that minimizes future deforestation and promotes conservation in the Andean Amazon.

For information on some of the main drivers of deforestation, please visit the Monitoring the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) website.

Illegal Gold Mining

Illegal gold mining is causing significant ecological and social impacts in the Peruvian Amazon. Two of the most critical impacts are deforestation and mercury contamination.  Impacts are currently most severe in the southern department of Madre de Dios and have been escalating over the past decade. Learn more about our work in the region on this issue.

In response to this crisis, the Peruvian government has been taking an increasingly active stance against illegal mining, attacking the problem on several fronts. Most notably, they are cracking down on illegal mining activities with force, and at the same time, carrying out a formalization process to legalize the operation of miners operating in authorized zones.

Gold Mining in MDD by Adrian Tejedor Small-scale gold mining has a large-scale impact on the forests in Madre de Dios, Peru (photo: Adrian Tejedor).

Events are unfolding rapidly and are often very complicated given the complex nature of the problem. Moreover, most of the day-to-day news is only in Spanish. Thus, it is difficult for many otherwise interested parties to effectively monitor the situation.

ACA is closely tracking current events related to illegal mining in Peru and working to synthesize them via periodic digests known as Mining News Watches. These updates synthesize two to three weeks of news and present the highlights in English and in concise, bullet form. Mining News Watches reports are available at our MAAP website.

Gold Mining in MDD by Adrian Tejedor The expansion of gold mining in the buffer zone of the Tambopata National Reserve in Peru (source: MAAP 60).

Illegal logging

Dr. Matt Finer, ACA’s Research Specialist, is the lead author of a paper published on April 17th, 2014 in Scientific Reports, an open access, peer-reviewed journal affiliated with Nature. Focused on logging in Peru, the paper analyzes 609 logging concessions with data obtained from OSINFOR, the supervisory body in Peru that oversees post-logging inspections. Finer, along with colleagues representing the Center for International Environmental Law and the Instituto de Pequisas Ecologicas, found that 68% of officially inspected concessions are either cancelled or under investigation for major violations of Peru’s forestry laws. 

Each logging concession represents a 40-year lease to officially manage public land for timber use. Reasons for cancelling logging concessions include timber extraction outside of concession limits, extraction or transport of illegal timber, non-compliance with management, and submission of false information; often, as this paper describes, OSINFOR discovered no stumps where legally sanctioned logging was to have taken place.

Iquitos port by Matt Finer Logs passing through an Iquitos port. According to the new study, many of these giant logs may have come from unauthorized areas, including protected areas and indigenous territories, outside of legal concessions (photo: Matt Finer).

“Our new study presents evidence that the illegal logging concession system is in reality enabling an illegal logging crisis in the Peruvian Amazon despite important reform efforts,” says Finer. “As a consequence, logging is not contained to concessions, and instead it threatens all forested lands, including protected areas and indigenous territories.”  But another key finding is that OSINFOR’s regulatory work is critically important to improving the concession system. Finer adds, “OSINFOR deserves additional support, not less, as the office is increasingly criticized by loggers whose concessions have been canceled.” Read more about this topic in Newsweek or The Guardian»


Parrots flying

Photo: Frances Buerkens

Overflight showing mining impact by Enrique Ortiz

View from an overflight of the widespread deforestation caused by mining in Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo: Enrique Ortiz

Water drop

A major impact of gold mining is mercury contamination in the Amazon's waterways. Photo: Raechel Running


Deforestation along the Tambopata River. Photo: Amy Rosenthal

Matt Finer standing next to a felled tree

ACA's Matt Finer standing next to a logged tree in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo: Clinton Jenkins

red tapestry