Brazil highway threat to Amazon biodiversity
December 23, 2020 - Brazil is planning to rebuild a controversial highway through the heart of the Amazon to spur economic development, but ecologists fear that the road, known as BR-319, will threaten a vast area of intact rainforest.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has vowed to resuscitate the road, and his administration is working on an ambitious plan to begin reconstruction by 2021, Reuters said.
Amazon researchers said the repaved road would trigger an explosion of deforestation in Amazonas, currently Brazil’s best preserved rainforest state precisely because it has few good roads.
A study led by Brazil’s Federal University of Minas Gerais estimates the project would result in a fivefold rise in clearing by 2030, the equivalent of an area larger than the U.S. state of Florida.
Ecologists are concerned because trees and other vegetation in the Amazon rainforest remove as many as two billion tonnes of atmospheric carbon each year – acting as an important brake on global warming, and helping to replenish the atmosphere with oxygen, according to Smithsonian Magazine.