Magazine article USA TODAY

Saving Rainforests May Be Doomed

Magazine article USA TODAY

Saving Rainforests May Be Doomed

Article excerpt

Current efforts to preserve South America's diverse plant and animal life are seriously flawed and are likely to fail if they're not re-evaluated, warns Douglas Southgate, associate professor of natural resources and agricultural economics, Ohio State University. "Tens of millions of dollars are being devoted to biodiversity conservation projects. Unfortunately, there's little reason to expect major payoffs from these projects in the future."

The biodiversity conservation campaign in South America is faltering because it focuses far too narrowly on the Amazon rainforest, ignoring other threatened habitats, he maintains. "The Amazon has a lot of popular appeal. But it's actually more intact than other areas. It's not where tropical forests are under the most threat."

No more than 10% of the Amazon River basin trees have been cleared, and deforestation there has slowed in recent years. In contrast, more than 90% of the forests of western Ecuador and Brazil's Atlantic coast have been chopped down. These forests have many endemic species--plants and animals found only in that region--but it's hard to overcome the selling power of the Amazon and generate interest in preserving the dry forests.

Another aspect of the faulty conservation strategy is the overemphasis on Integrated Conservation Development Plans. Under the ICDP system, conservationists and donor agencies go into threatened areas and establish national parks and "buffer zones" around the parks. …

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