Amazon Forest maintenance as a source of environmental services

Philip M. Fearnside About the author

Amazonian forest produces environmental services such as maintenance of biodiversity, water cycling and carbon stocks. These services have a much greater value to human society than do the timber, beef and other products that are obtained by destroying the forest. Yet institutional mechanisms are still lacking to transform the value of the standing forest into the foundation of an economy based on maintaining rather than destroying this ecosystem. Forest management for commodities such as timber and non-timber forest products faces severe limitations and inherent contradictions unless income is supplemented based on environmenta lservices. Amazon forest is threatened by deforestation, logging, forest fires and climate change. Measures to avoid deforestation include repression through command and control, creation of protected areas, and reformulation of infrastructure decisions and development policies. An economy primarily based on the value of environmental services is essential for long-term maintenance of the forest. Much progress has been made in the decades since I first proposed such a transition, but many issues also remain unresolved. These include theoretical issues regarding accounting procedures, improved quantification of the services and of the benefits of different policy options, and effective uses of the funds generated in ways that maintain both the forest and the human population.

Amazonia; avoided deforestation; Brazil; carbon; deforestation; global warming; Greenhouse effect; rainforest


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