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Modelling conservation in the Amazon basin


Expansion of the cattle and soy industries in the Amazon basin has increased deforestation rates and will soon push all-weather highways into the region's core1,2,3,4. In the face of this growing pressure, a comprehensive conservation strategy for the Amazon basin should protect its watersheds, the full range of species and ecosystem diversity, and the stability of regional climates. Here we report that protected areas in the Amazon basin—the central feature of prevailing conservation approaches5,6,7,8—are an important but insufficient component of this strategy, based on policy-sensitive simulations of future deforestation. By 2050, current trends in agricultural expansion will eliminate a total of 40% of Amazon forests, including at least two-thirds of the forest cover of six major watersheds and 12 ecoregions, releasing 32 ± 8 Pg of carbon to the atmosphere. One-quarter of the 382 mammalian species examined will lose more than 40% of the forest within their Amazon ranges. Although an expanded and enforced network of protected areas could avoid as much as one-third of this projected forest loss, conservation on private lands is also essential. Expanding market pressures for sound land management and prevention of forest clearing on lands unsuitable for agriculture are critical ingredients of a strategy for comprehensive conservation3,4.

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Figure 1: Model results for the extreme-case scenarios in the year 2050.

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We thank S. Schwartzmann for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by grants from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Large-Scale Biosphere Atmosphere Experiment), NASA Earth Science Program, the National Science Foundation, the Santa Fe Institute, and CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior). Author Contributions B.S.S.-F. and D.C.N. designed the model and did the carbon analysis. G.C.C. programmed the model software. R.A.G. performed the socioeconomic analyses. L.M.C., C.A.R. and A.M. analysed the ecoregions and mammal geographic distributions. E.V., P.L. and P.S. prepared the database.

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Correspondence to Britaldo Silveira Soares-Filho or Daniel Curtis Nepstad.

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Supplementary Notes

This file contains Amazon Conservation scenarios, including the Supplementary Figures and Supplementary Tables. (DOC 7793 kb)

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Soares-Filho, B., Nepstad, D., Curran, L. et al. Modelling conservation in the Amazon basin. Nature 440, 520–523 (2006).

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