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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Oil development may destroy richest part of the Amazon rainforest

688,000 square kilometers (170 million acres) of the western Amazon is under concession for oil and gas development, according to a new study published in the August 13 edition of the open-access journal PLoS ONE. The results suggest the region, which is considered by scientists to be the most biodiverse on the planet and is home to some of the world's last uncontacted indigenous groups, is at great risk of environmental degradation.

Tracking some 180 oil and gas projects operated across Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and western Brazil, researchers from Save America's Forests, Land Is Life, and Duke University generated a comprehensive map of hydrocarbon concessions in the region. The assessment reveals that oil and gas blocks are concentrated in the most intact part of the Amazon rainforest, including national parks — both Yasun√≠ National Park in Ecuador and Madidi National Park in Bolivia are under concession.

"We found that the oil and gas blocks overlap perfectly with the most biodiverse part of the Amazon for birds, mammals, and amphibians," said study co-author Dr. Clinton Jenkins of Duke University. "The threat to amphibians is of particular concern because they are already the most threatened group of vertebrates worldwide."

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