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Forest carbon in Amazonia: The unrecognized contribution of indigenous territories and protected natural areas


Abstract and Figures

Carbon sequestration is a widely acknowledged and increasingly valued function of tropical forest ecosystems; however, until recently, the information needed to assess the carbon storage capacity of Amazonian indigenous territories (ITs) and protected natural areas (PNAs) in a global context remained either lacking or out of reach. Here, as part of a novel north–south collaboration among Amazonian indigenous and non-governmental organization (NGO) networks, scientists and policy experts, we show that the nine-nation network of nearly 3000 ITs and PNAs stores more carbon above ground than all of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia combined, and, despite the ostensibly secure status of these cornerstones of Amazon conservation, a conservative risk assessment considering only ongoing and planned development projects puts nearly 20% of this carbon at risk, encompassing an area of tropical forest larger than that found in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru combined. International recognition of and renewed investment in these globally vital landscapes are therefore critical to ensuring their continued contribution to maintaining cultural identity, ecosystem integrity and climate stability.
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Forest carbon in Amazonia: the unrecognized
contribution of indigenous territories and protected
natural areas
Wayne Walkera, Alessandro Baccinia, Stephan Schwartzmanb, Sandra Ríoscg, María A.
Oliveira-Mirandadg, Cicero Augustoeg, Milton Romero Ruizfg, Carla Soria Arrascocg, Beto
Ricardoeh, Richard Smithcg, Chris Meyerb, Juan Carlos Jintiachi & Edwin Vasquez Camposj
a Woods Hole Research Center/WHRC, 149 Woods Hole Road, Falmouth, MA02540USA
b Environmental Defense Fund/EDF, 1875 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington,
c Instituto del Bien Común/IBC, Av. Salaverry 818, Lima11–Perú
d Provita, Av. Rómulo Gallegos, Edf. Pascal, Ofc 171A, Caracas, Venezuela 1071
e Instituto Socioambiental/ISA, Av. Higienópolis, 901 s.30, 01238-001São Paulo, SP, Brasil
f Fundación GAIA Amazonas, Carrera 4 # 26d – 31, Bogotá, Colombia
g Member – Red Amazónica de Información Socioambiental Georreferenciada/RAISG
h Coordinator – Red Amazónica de Información Socioambiental Georreferenciada/RAISG
i Regional Technical Coordinator - Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la
Cuenca Amazónica/COICA
j General Coordinator – Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca
Accepted author version posted online: 02 Dec 2014.Published online: 20 Dec 2014.
To cite this article: Wayne Walker, Alessandro Baccini, Stephan Schwartzman, Sandra Ríos, María A. Oliveira-Miranda,
Cicero Augusto, Milton Romero Ruiz, Carla Soria Arrasco, Beto Ricardo, Richard Smith, Chris Meyer, Juan Carlos Jintiach
& Edwin Vasquez Campos (2014): Forest carbon in Amazonia: the unrecognized contribution of indigenous territories and
protected natural areas, Carbon Management, DOI: 10.1080/17583004.2014.990680
To link to this article:
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Policy Focus
Forest carbon in Amazonia: the unrecognized
contribution of indigenous territories and protected
natural areas
More than half (52%; 4.1 million km2) of Amazonia's
tropical ecosystems are contained within an extensive
network of 2344 indigenous territories (ITs) and 610
protected natural areas (PNAs) spanning nine South
American nations (Figure 1). These cornerstones of
Amazon conservation are widely recognized for their
exceptional biological, cultural and linguistic diver-
sity [13], and serve as both social and natural barriers
to frontier expansion and fire [46]. In countries like
Brazil, where deforestation has been high historically,
they are also viewed as central to strategies designed
to avoid atmospheric carbon emissions stemming from
deforestation and forest degradation [7]. Carbon seques-
tration is an often-acknowledged service provided by
tropical forest ecosystems worldwide, and while it is
generally understood that the amount of carbon stored
above ground in Amazonia is significant, until recently
the information needed to quantify the contribution
of Amazonian ITs and PNAs to carbon storage at the
global scale remained either lacking or out of reach. A
novel collaboration among scientists, Pan-Amazonian
indigenous and non-governmental organization (NGO)
A Policy Focus submission to Carbon Management (2015)
Wayne Walker1*, Alessandro Baccini1, Stephan Schwartzman2, Sandra Ríos3,7
María A. Oliveira-Miranda4,7
, Cicero Augusto5,7
, Milton Romero Ruiz6,7
, Carla Soria Arrasco3,7
Beto Ricardo5,8, Richard Smith3,7
, Chris Meyer2, Juan Carlos Jintiach9 & Edwin Vasquez Campos10
Carbon sequestration is a widel y acknowledged and increasingly valued function of tropical f orest ecosystems;
however, until recently, the information needed to assess the car bon storage capacity of Amazonian indigenous
territories (ITs) and protected natural areas (PNAs) in a global context remained either lacking or out of reach.
Here, as part of a novel north–south collaboration among Amazonian indigenous and non-governmental
organization (NGO) networks, scientists and policy experts, we show that the nine-nation network of nearly
3000 ITs and PNAs stores more carbon above ground than all of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and
Indonesia combined, and, despite the ostensibly secure status of these cornerstones of Amazon conservation,
a conservative risk assessment considering only ongoing and planned development projects puts nearly 20%
of this carbon at risk, encompassing an area of tropical forest larger than that found in Colombia, Ecuador
and Peru combined. International recognition of and renewed investment in these globally vital landscapes
are therefore critical to ensuring their continued contribution to maintaining cultural identity, ecosystem
integrity and climate stability.
1 Woods Hole Res earch Center/WHRC, 149 Woods Hole Road, Falmouth, M A02540USA
2 Environmental Defense Fund/EDF, 1875 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, DC20009USA
3 Instituto del Bien Común/IBC, Av. Salaverry 818, Lima11–Perú
4 Provita, Av. Rómulo Gallegos, Edf. Pascal, Ofc 171A, Caracas, Venezuela 1071
5 Instituto Socioambiental/ISA, Av. Higienópolis, 901s.30, 01238-001São Paulo, SP, Brasil
6 Fundación GAIA Amazonas, Carrera 4 # 26d – 31, Bogotá, Colombia
7 Member – Red Amazónica de Información Socioambiental Georreferenciada/RAISG
8 Coordinator – Red Amazónica de Información Socioambiental Georreferenciada/RAISG
9 Regional Technical Coordinator - Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica/COICA
10 General Coordinator – Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica/COICA
*Author for correspondence: Tel.: 508 444 1541; Fax: 508 540 9700; E-mail:
Downloaded by [] at 12:43 07 February 2015
Carbon Management (2015)
Policy Focus Walker, Baccini et al.
networks, and policy experts has
linked newly compiled spatial data
sets on pantropical aboveground
forest carbon density [8], Amazonian
ITs and PNAs, and risks to their
integrity from current pressures
and/or near-term threats [101]. Our
analysis suggests that the carbon
stored across these ostensibly secure
landscapes is of a magnitude not
previously appreciated in global
terms, and is sufficient to either
destabilize or contribute to the sta-
bilization of the planet's atmosphere
depending on the collective impact
of ongoing and planned devel-
opment projects. In this century
alone, more than 253,000 km2 of
Amazonian rainforest – an area the
size of the United Kingdom – have
been lost [9] as a result of increasing
pressures linked to climate change,
agriculture expansion, road and
hydroelectric plant construction and
the extraction of timber, fossil fuels
and precious metals [10,101]. During
this same period, indigenous land
rights and environmental regula-
tion of forest land use, while largely
unimplemented in some countries,
have alternately advanced and come
under political attack and could be
compromised further under increas-
ing demands for agricultural and
energy commodities. The Government of Ecuador's
signing of permits that allow for long-contested oil
drilling to commence in Yasuni National Park – a
UNESCO biosphere reserve containing pristine for-
ests and uncontacted indigenous tribes – is a recent,
albeit unexceptional, example of the very real and pre-
sent risks to global culture, conservation and climate
facing landscapes commonly perceived as being out of
harm's way [102].
Carbon storage in ITs and PNAs
Amazonian indigenous leaders, cognizant of discussions
centered on the role of tropical forests in international
climate negotiations, called for an analysis to better
understand the contribution of ITs and PNAs to global
carbon storage, one increasingly acknowledged ecosys-
tem function among the wide range of cultural and envi-
ronmental services indigenous lands are recognized to
provide. The investigation was an outgrowth of broader
indigenous interests focused on building political,
technical and institutional competencies around the
complexity of issues at the intersection of international
climate change policy, sustainable economic develop-
ment and indigenous territorial rights. Indigenous
organizations and communities actively participated in
the process of data gathering and interpretation.
The results of the analysis reveal that the Amazonian
region stores nearly 38% (86,121 MtC; Figure 1) of the
228,700 MtC found above ground in the woody vegeta-
tion of tropical America, Africa and Asia [8]. By them-
selves, Amazonian ITs are responsible for storing nearly
one third (32.8%) of the region's aboveground carbon
(28,247 MtC; Table S1) on roughly 30% (2.4 million
km2; Table S2) of the land area. This result is note-
worthy when considering that more carbon is stored in
Amazonian ITs than is found in all of the forests of the
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC; 22,128 MtC)
or the Republic of Indonesia (18,851 MtC; Table S1),
two countries where considerable international attention
and investment are now being directed toward the long-
term protection of these large yet vulnerable expanses of
remaining tropical forest. The analysis was conducted
by combining a pantropical data set of aboveground
carbon density derived from a novel combination of
field and satellite measurements [8] with the most com-
prehensive database of IT and PNA limits available for
the nine-nation region [see supporting online material
(SOM), available from the article’s Taylor & Francis
Online page at htt p:// /10.1080/17583004
.2014.990680.]. Expanding the scope of the analysis
to include not only the aboveground carbon stocks of
Amazonian ITs but also those of PNAs, we find that well
over half (55%; 47,363 MtC; Figure 1) of the region's
carbon is contained within this multi-nation network of
forest-dominated landscapes. Remarkably, this is more
carbon than is stored above ground in all of the DRC
and Indonesia combined (40,979 MtC; Table S1) and,
by recent accounts, sufficient to irreversibly alter conti-
nental-scale rainfall and climate regimes if released [11].
Assessing pressures and threats
While there is little debate about the impending risks
to the Amazonian forest estate, its carbon stores or any
of the broad range of ecosystem services the region's
forests provide at local to global scales, forecasting the
likely areal extent of these risks across such an economi-
cally and politically diverse landscape is not without its
inherent uncertainty. Here, we performed a conserva-
tive yet spatially explicit risk assessment focused on the
carbon currently stored above ground in Amazonian ITs
and PNAs (Figure 1; SOM). Areas directly impacted
by current (i.e., active and ongoing) development
across primary production and infrastructure sectors,
i.e., agriculture, grazing, mining, petroleum, timber
Key terms
Amazonia: The most commonly
referenced boundaries of the Amazon
region are biophysical, related to
hydrography, topography and/or
vegetation, and administrative as
recognized by the various nations for
the application of protection and/or
development policies. The limit of
Amazonia used here (Figure 1) consists
primarily of a biogeographical boundary
of the Amazon ecosystem, with
exceptions for Ecuador and Brazil where
additional legal and administrative
criteria are applied.
Indigenous territories: Lands of the 385
indigenous peoples living in Amazonia,
which include ocially recognized areas
of traditional use and occupation, as
well as traditionally used and occupied
areas lacking ocial recognition and
territorial reserves or intangible zones
set aside for peoples living in isolation.
Protected natural areas: Lands having
ocial conservation status including
indirect use areas where natural
resource extrac tion is prohibited, direct
use areas where extraction is permitted
under management plans and areas of
transitory (or mixed) use.
Aboveground forest carbon density:
The total amount of carbon contained
above ground in the woody biomass of
live vegetation. Forests contain more
carbon above ground than nonforests
but there can be considerable spatial
variability in carbon density (e.g.,
megagrams of carbon per hectare)
within a given forest type.
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Forest carbon in Amazonia Policy Focus
and transportation, were classified as under pressure,
while areas likely to be impacted in the near term by
projects or concessions described in current government
and/or development agency planning documents were
characterized as under threat [101]. Risk (i.e., pressure
and/or threat) was then quantified based on the overlap
with, and/or relative proximity to, current or planned
development activities (SOM).
Our analysis indicates that more than half (53%) of
the Amazonian region by area (i.e., approximately 4.2
million km2) is at risk from either current pressures
(65%) or near-term threats (35%; Figure 1; Table S3).
In total, this vast expanse of at-risk land – equal to half
the size of Brazil – is currently responsible for storing
nearly 46% (39,743 MtC) of Amazonian aboveground
carbon, which is more carbon than is stored above
ground in all of Russia (32,500 MtC) and more than
twice that stored in the United States (19,308 MtC;
Table S1). Approximately 43% of this at-risk carbon,
or 17,017 MtC, an amount equivalent to 90% of the
aboveground carbon stock of Indonesia, is contained
within the borders of Amazonian ITs and PNAs, lands
Figure 1. Amazon forest carbon at risk. (A) Risks (i.e., current pressures and near-term threats; see Table S3) to
the distribution of (B) carbon stored above ground in the woody biomass of Amazonian tropical forests (C) as a
percentage of the basin-wide total (i.e., 86,120 million metric tons carbon, MtC): ITs – 23,380 MtC (27.1%), PNAs – 19,116
MtC (22.2%), areas of overlapping ITs and PNAs – 4867 MtC (5.7%) and all other land – 39,376 MtC (45.0%) (see Table S1).
Downloaded by [] at 12:43 07 February 2015
Carbon Management (2015)
Policy Focus Walker, Baccini et al.
that are commonly assumed to be all but free from
risk, if only by virtue of their protected status. In fact,
a remarkably large proportion of the land contained
within Amazonian ITs and PNAs is at risk, includ-
ing 40% (794,030 km2) of ITs, 30% (514,879 km2) of
PNAs and 24% (90,280 km2) of regions where the two
overlap (Table S3). In total, the combined area of ITs
and PNAs under either pressure or threat constitutes
18% (1.4 million km2) of Amazonia, an area larger
than the Amazonian regions of Colombia, Ecuador
and Peru combined (Table S2).
This assessment was designed to be intentionally con-
servative where risks to IT and PNA carbon stocks are
concerned, insofar as it does not attempt to quantify
illegal extractive activities or future deforestation threats
(legal or illegal). For example, the analysis does not con-
sider the loss of forest that predictably follows planned
road construction or improvement, and the expanded
access to the forest interior that naturally accompa-
nies such infrastructure development. Historically, the
majority of Amazon infrastructure development and
associated official government investment has been
geopolitically motivated rather than economically
driven [12]. Because the analysis was limited to devel-
opment activities that were either active or planned,
the results are likely to more accurately reflect invest-
ments – and the accompanying risks – stemming from
geopolitical decision-making, which might otherwise be
unaccounted for by more theoretically based economic
Amazonian protected lands and forest/climate
Tropical deforestation continued unabated globally over
the period 2000–2012, increasing by approximately
2100 km2 yr−1, notwithstanding Brazil's recent successes
in curtailing large-scale forest losses [9]. The results of
recent modeling efforts suggest that halting tropical
deforestation, which accounts for 6–17% of global
anthropogenic CO2 emissions to the atmosphere [13],
when combined with substantial reductions in emis-
sions from fossil fuels and other sectors, would increase
to 65% the probability of maintaining global warming
below the UNFCCC target of 2°C above pre-industrial
levels [103]. Given the enormous amount of carbon stored
in Amazonian ITs and PNAs alone, maintaining the
ecological integrity of these landscapes is a critical,
albeit insufficient, step toward reducing emissions of
CO2 from land use change.
Recent research emphasizes that stemming the tide
of large-scale tropical forest loss will depend on increas-
ing the agricultural yield on existing farmland and
degraded areas [14 ,15]. However, most estimates of the
costs of reducing deforestation focus on opportunity
costs of forgone agriculture production and omit the
costs not only of maintaining ITs and PNAs [104], but
also of creating the necessary sustainable development
opportunities for their resident populations (Table S4).
While corporate commitments to “zero deforestation”
commodity supply chains together with multi-stake-
holder processes such as The Consumer Goods Forum
and commodity roundtables (e.g., Roundtable for
Sustainable Palm Oil, Roundtable for Responsible Soy,
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and Brazilian
Roundtable on Sustainable Livestock) may reduce
deforestation pressures on some forest landscapes, ITs
and PNAs are not directly linked to commodity supply
chains and these efforts will not, by themselves, achieve
the development goals of indigenous and forest-dwell-
ing peoples, or provide for the effective implementation
and maintenance of conservation areas. It follows that
specific policies and investments in support of effective
forest protection, sustainable development pathways
for the populations that inhabit ITs and PNAs, and
equitable valuation of their social and environmental
services, are fundamental to realizing robust, large-
scale reductions in emissions from land use change.
In short, strategies – and national and international
funding initiatives – for large-scale forest conservation
need to include actions and investments on both sides of
the agricultural frontier. While our analysis has focused
on Amazonia, this conclusion is relevant to Indonesia
as well, particularly in light of the widespread presence
of indigenous peoples in its remaining forests as well
as the extensive literature documenting the centrality
of local community control over land and resources
for sustainable management practices in the region [16].
The sheer scale of Amazonian ITs and PNAs, the for-
ests they contain and the carbon they store, combined
with the substantial risks posed by present and near-
future development, suggests that basin-wide incentives
to upwardly harmonize and implement indigenous land
and resource rights, together with forest protection and
sustainable use policies, are justified on the basis of the
climate benefits alone, but would also produce multi-
ple social, cultural and ecological co-benefits. Given
that nearly 14% of the carbon stored above ground in
Amazonian ITs is contained within territories lacking
official government recognition, legally recognizing
these territories as well as settling private land claims
in PNAs is, by any measure, an urgent priority. While
management systems for territories under indigenous
control vary considerably across the region, they tend
to be closely adapted to, and based on extensive knowl-
edge of, local ecosystems. As a result, indigenous ter-
ritorial management practices contribute directly to
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Forest carbon in Amazonia Policy Focus
the development and maintenance of ecosystem com-
position, structure and function [1719]. Although the
maintenance of forest carbon stocks in ITs cannot be
attributed to indigenous management per se, the inex-
tricable relationship between Amazonian indigenous
cultural identity and tropical forest ecosystems, includ-
ing their flora and fauna, forms the basis of indigenous
peoples’ ongoing political struggle for recognition of
their land and resource rights and the extant indigenous
territories. Whereas indigenous management systems
have proved largely sustainable at least since the colonial
era, they will require new technologies, capacities – and
political alliances – in order to successfully meet the
development challenges and market pressures of the 21st
century. In recent years, indigenous peoples and their
civil society supporters have had considerable success
in incorporating social safeguards into existing and
proposed guidelines for REDD+ [10510 7], and Peru's
inclusion of indigenous land titling and community
forestry governance in its National Investment Plan for
the Forest Investment Partnership financing offers a
template for ongoing indigenous territorial rights dis-
cussions basin-wide.
Given the recognized potential of ITs and PNAs to
limit or prevent deforestation and forest degradation [7],
while at the same time acknowledging the widespread
near-term risk to their forests, the indigenous and tra-
ditional communities that inhabit many of them and
the vast stocks of carbon they contain, bilateral and
multilateral donors should devote a significant portion
of capacity building and “payment for performance”
funding to a comprehensive, integrated strategy for
the protection and sustainable development of these
landscapes. Amazonian nations that officially recog-
nize indigenous territorial and resource rights, invest
in sustainable livelihoods for forest peoples, develop
and implement national protected area management
plans and participatory national policies for indigenous
territorial management (i.e., akin to Brazil's National
Program for Environmental Management of Indigenous
Lands – PNGATI) and commit national funds to match
international donor investments, should be allowed to
count some proportion of their IT and PNA carbon
stocks toward post-2020 emissions reductions targets
under the UNFCCC, and should be preferentially eli-
gible for both REDD+ and climate adaptation financ-
ing. These resources should be complemented by infra-
structure compensation funds, fines for environmental
infractions and government investment in monitoring
and law enforcement.
Estimates of the costs of protecting Amazonian
ITs and PNAs while developing sustainable economic
development alternatives for local communities are
inherently uncertain, and merit further research and
analysis. However, a conservative approximation of the
costs – likely on the order of US $2–4 billion – required
to create and consolidate ITs and PNAs, while at the
same time establishing endowments to support fixed
recurring costs, including administrative and moni-
toring operations, puts them easily within the scale of
bilateral and multilateral funding presently committed
to reducing deforestation (Table S5). Indigenous terri-
tories and inhabited PNAs also need budgetary outlays
for social services such as healthcare and education.
Ultimately, the sustainability of ITs and PNAs will
depend on the strength and stability of the economies
surrounding them. While a basin-wide transition to
sustainable economic development pathways for rural
and urban economies is likely to come at a significantly
higher cost, it could also generate correspondingly
higher benefits over time [11]. Bilateral and multilat-
eral donor funds, philanthropy, private carbon finance,
infrastructure development compensation and impact
mitigation funds, as well as fines for environmental
infractions, are all potential sources of financing.
Future perspective
Previous attempts to predict the broad impacts of
development on tropical forest cover, CO2 emissions
trajectories and lands with conservation status have
been either characterized by high uncertainties in the
absence of consistent and accurate region-wide esti-
mates of carbon density or restricted geographically
(e.g., to the Brazilian Amazon) in the absence of a
comprehensive basin-wide database of spatially explicit
IT and PNA limits [7]. Efforts to model the potential
feedbacks among climate change, fire and forest loss
while evaluating the probability of future large-scale
Amazon drought and forest dieback have similarly been
hampered by uncertainties surrounding the availability
of data such as those compiled here [108]. Despite the
uncertainty surrounding the mid- to long-term impacts
of climate change on the Amazon, including chang-
ing regional temperature and precipitation regimes,
releasing the carbon currently at risk in Amazon ITs
alone – equivalent to clearing all of Peru's forests –
would increase the probability of Amazon dieback [20],
with deleterious and potentially irreversible effects on
the atmosphere and the planet.
At the 2013 UNFCCC Climate Change Conference,
19th Conference of the Parties (COP 19), countries
agreed to the Warsaw Framework for REDD+, establish-
ing the principles and guidelines necessary for REDD+
to become operational (Decisions 9–16/COP 19). At
the 2014 conference (COP 20) in Lima, Peru, nego-
tiators are expected to agree that significant REDD+
Downloaded by [] at 12:43 07 February 2015
Carbon Management (2015)
Policy Focus Walker, Baccini et al.
financing should be part of the international climate
change treaty scheduled for ratification at COP 21 in
Paris, France. Some $8.5 billion in bilateral and multi-
lateral funding has already been committed to REDD+
with only a fraction allocated to ITs and PNAs (Table
S5) [109]. Policies to address climate change, including
efforts to measure and monitor forest loss and associated
carbon emissions, will inevitably continue to be national
and subnational prerogatives, and, consequently, for-
est protection and sustainable development programs
will be designed and implemented, as current policy
frameworks mandate, at national and subnational levels.
However, the global importance of Amazonian ITs and
PNAs, not only to the planet's atmosphere, but also in
consideration of the broad range of social and ecological
benefits they provide, merits international recognition
through the UNFCCC as well as large-scale, integrated
investment in these landscapes and the people who
inhabit them. While ITs and PNAs provide numerous
environmental and social services with multiple material
and immaterial values that extend well beyond carbon,
these landscapes are of critical global importance on
the basis of their carbon stocks alone and the role they
necessarily have to play in maintaining the stability of
the planet's climate.
The authors wish to thank Juan Calles, Saúl Cuellar, Fernando
Espíndola, Mary Farina, Carol Franco, Humberto Gómez,
Erica Johnson, Daniel Larrea, Víctor López , Alicia Rolla,
Márcio Santilli, Adriana Sarmiento, Percy Summers, Pedro
Tipula, Janette Ulloa, Lisa Walker, Allison White and Sergio
Zambrano-Martínez for their valuable comments on an earlier
draft of this manuscript and/or assistance with data
Financial and competing interests disclosure
Data compilation and analysis was supported by the World Bank,
Rainforest Foundation Norway, Ford Foundation, Gordon and
Betty Moore Foundation and the United States Agency for
International Development (USAID). The authors have no other
relevant affiliations or financial involvement with any organization
or entity with a financial interest in or financial conflict with the
subject matter or materials discussed in the manuscript apart from
those disclosed. No writing assistance was utilized in the production
of this manuscript.
Supplementary data
Supplemental data for this article as well as a Spanish
language translation can be accessed at, at http://d x.doi.
Executive summary
More than half of Amazonia (52%; 4.1 million km2) is contained within a network of 2954 indigenous territories (ITs) and protected natural
areas (PNAs) spanning nine nations.
These landscapes provide numerous environmental and social benets of global importance including climate stabilization through forest
carbon sequestration.
Carbon storage in ITs and PNAs
More carbon is stored above ground in Amazonian ITs than is stored in all the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Amazonian ITs and PNAs store more than half (55%) of the region's aboveground carbon, which is more carbon than is stored above
ground in all of the DRC and Indonesia combined.
Assessing pressures and threats
More than half of the Amazonian region (53%; 4.2 million km2) is at risk from either current pressures or near-term threats associated with
growth in the agriculture, grazing, mining, petroleum, timber and transportation sectors.
Approximately 43% of this at-risk carbon, an amount equivalent to 90% of the aboveground carbon stock of Indonesia, is contained within
the ostensibly secure borders of Amazonian ITs and PNAs.
The combined area of ITs and PNAs at risk constitutes 18% (1.4 million km2) of Amazonia, an area larger than the Colombian, Ecuadorian
and Peruvian Amazon combined.
Amazonian protected lands and forest/climate policy
Nearly 14% of the carbon stored above ground in Amazonian ITs is contained within territories lacking ocial recognition; obtaining legal
recognition for ITs and settling private land claims in PNAs are urgent priorities.
The costs of creating and consolidating ITs and PNAs and establishing endowments to support administrative operations and monitoring
is conservatively estimated at $2–4 billion, a sum well within the scale of present international commitments to reducing deforestation.
Amazon nations that commit to protect and make social and economic investments in ITs and PNAs should be allowed to count some
proportion of their IT and PNA carbon stocks toward post-2020 emissions reductions targets under the UNFCCC.
The sustainability of ITs and PNAs will depend on the strength and stability of their surrounding economies, necessitating a basin-wide
transition to sustainable rural and urban economic development pathways.
Given the carbon stored in Amazonian ITs and PNAs alone, international recognition of and renewed investment in maintaining the
ecological integrity of these landscapes are critical to reducing emissions of CO2 from land use change.
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Forest carbon in Amazonia Policy Focus
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... Given the driver of environmental harm and climate change is disproportionately related to the actions of wealthy actors, there is a need for a radical, system level change in conservation and development practice Díaz, Settele, Brondízio, Ngo, Guèze, et al., 2019), as well as for deep reflection by science itself (Pascual et al., 2017). Such transformation requires endorsement of a counter-narrative that would reframe the rationale and strategies underpinning conservation and development towards empowerment of, and stewardship by IP&LCs based on their own values, institutions and practices (Artelle et al., 2019;Garnett et al., 2018;Walker et al., 2014). ...
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Globally, land and seascapes across the bioculturally diverse tropics are in transition. Impacted by the demands of distant consumers, the processes of global environmental change and numerous interventions seeking climate, conservation and development goals, these transitions have the potential to impact the relationships and plurality of values held between people and place. This paper is a Synthesis of seven empirical studies within the Special Feature (SF): ‘What is lost in transition? Capturing the impacts of conservation and development interventions on relational values and human wellbeing in the tropics’. Through two Open Forum workshops, and critical review, contributing authors explored emergent properties across the papers of the SF. Six core themes were identified and are subsumed within broad categories of: (i) the problem of reconciling scale and complexity, (ii) key challenges to be overcome for more plural understanding of social dimensions of landscape change and (iii) ways forward: the potential of an environmental justice framework, and a practical overview of methods available to do so. The Synthesis interprets disparate fields and complex academic work on relational values, human well‐being and de‐colonial approaches in impact appraisal. It offers a practical and actionable catalogue of methods for plural valuation in the field, and reflects on their combinations, strengths and weaknesses. The research contribution is policy relevant because it builds the case for why a more plural approach in intervention design and evaluation is essential for achieving more just and sustainable futures, and highlights some of the key actions points deemed necessary to achieve such a transition to conventional practice. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.
... Across the Amazon, an extensive network of 6983 ILs and 1170 PAs expands over 4.5 million km 2 and occupies 53.6% of the biome [9]. The carbon stock of the Amazon's PAs and ILs alone is enough to destabilize or contribute to the stabilization of the Earth's atmosphere [10]. However, whilst PAs are subject to chronic disturbances such as deforestation and forest degradation [11], evidence suggests that climate change may also limit their efficacy [12]. ...
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Changes in species distribution in response to climate change might challenge the territorial boundaries of protected areas. Amazonia is one of the global regions most at risk of developing long distances between current and future analogous climates and the emergence of climate conditions without analogs in the past. As a result, species present within the network of Protected Areas (PAs) of Amazonia may be threatened throughout the 21st century. In this study, we investigated climate velocity based on future and past climate-analogs using forward and backward directions in the network of PAs of Amazonia, in order to assess the climatic risk of these areas to climate change and verify their effectiveness in maintaining the current climate conditions. Using current (1970-2000) and future (2041-2060) average annual air temperature and precipitation data with a resolution of 10 km, climate velocities across the entire Amazon biome and average climate velocities of PAs and Indigenous Lands (ILs) were evaluated. The results show that the effects of backward velocity will be greater than that of forward velocity in the Amazon biome. However, the PA network will be less exposed to backward velocity impacts than unprotected areas (UAs)-emphasizing the importance of these areas as a conservation tool. In contrast, for the forward velocity impacts, the PA network will be slightly more exposed than UAs-indicating that the current spatial arrangement of the PA network is still not the most suitable to minimize impacts of a possible climate redistribution. In addition, a large extent of no-analog climates for backward velocities was found in central Amazonia, indicating that high temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns in this region will surpass the historical variability of the entire biome, making it a potentially isolated and unsuitable climatic envelope for species in the future. Most of the no-analog climates are in PAs, however the climate risks in ILs should also be highlighted since they presented higher climate velocities than PAs in both metrics. Our projections contrast with the median latitudinal migration rate of 2 km/year observed in most ecosystems and taxonomic groups studied so far and suggest the need for median migration rates of 7.6 km/year. Thus, despite the important role of PAs and ILs as conservation tools, they are not immune to the effects of climate change and new management strategies, specific to each area and that allow adaptation to global changes, will be necessary.
... Amazonian indigenous chiefs called for further study to better understand the importance of indigenous territory and protected conservation ecosystems to global carbon sequestration, recognizing the importance of green spaces in international climate discussions. Data was collected and interpreted with the participation of indigenous groups and communities (Walker et al., 2014). Civil societies, industries, scholars, and national, regional, and local governments must define the solution routes for effective bioregional planning. ...
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Ecuador is remarkably known as the first country that granted natural constitutional rights. However, it still does not guarantee its nature preservation. This Latin American country is also highly dependent on oil. The dilemma of the continuity of the extractive industries emerged in the discussion. This influences indigenous peoples' unmet rights, especially when they are the ones who are directly affected by climate change as forest dwellers. To defend their territories, indigenous people in Ecuador do not stand still. Indigenous rights and sovereignty over their lands are becoming more widely recognized, which may prevent the Amazon from further damage. This research aims to investigate the actions and challenges that Indigenous Ecuadorians must face in combatting extractive industries. The authors use a descriptive qualitative approach and collect data from library research. This study uses a human rights-based approach to analyze the content of this paper. As a result, this research found that Ecuador’s government which plays the duty-bearer is failing and lacking the obligations to protect indigenous rights. On the other side, the indigenous people in Ecuador are thriving to defend their rights by reflecting on the human rights-based approach's five principles: participation, accountability, non-discrimination and equality, empowerment, and legality. Indigenous peoples and environmental groups are not enabling misery or hunger by supporting the environmentally practical measure.
... Another illustration of co-production bringing together scientific and Indigenous knowledge is carbon density maps that combine in situ and satellite observations to highlight the contribution of Indigenous territories and other collective forms of land tenure to climate change mitigation. For instance, a consortium among research groups, NGOs, and Indigenous know ledge holders found that over half of Amazon Forest carbon is stored in Indigenous territories and protected natural areas (Walker et al., 2014). In a broader assessment of 64 countries, A Global Baseline of Carbon Storage in Collective Lands estimated that at least 17% of the total carbon stored in forestlands is managed by Indigenous Peoples and local communities (Rights and Resources, 2018). ...
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The purpose of this second Hamburg Climate Futures Outlook is to systematically analyze and assess the plausibility of certain well-defined climate futures based on present knowledge of social drivers and physical processes. In particular, we assess the plausibility of those climate futures that are envisioned by the 2015 Paris Agreement, namely holding global warming to well below 2°C and, if possible, to 1.5°C, relative to pre-industrial levels (UNFCCC 2015, Article 2 paragraph 1a). The world will have to reach a state of deep decarbonization by 2050 to be compliant with the 1.5°C goal. We therefore work with a climate future scenario that combines emissions and temperature goals.
... In the Americas, there are two significant large forest areas considered under good conservation status, the Amazon in Brazil and the Selva Maya located in southern Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala, coinciding with the territory where the Maya culture developed. In both Amazon and Selva Maya, the role of Indigenous peoples in relation to the high status of conservation has been documented (Walker et al., 2014;Garnett et al., 2018;Sobrevila, 2008;Ellis et al., 2020, Aguirre Cortés et al., 2020. ...
Under the assumption that leadership plays a critical role in explaining the conservation of natural resources and acknowledging that, in Indigenous territories, around 80% of the world’s natural resources are safeguarded, this chapter describes a case study in a Yucatec Maya community where the following question was addressed: what model of leadership is related to the success in the conservation of forest in Noh Bec, Quintana Roo, Mexico? For over 80 years, the leadership in this community worked with non-Indigenous representatives of governmental and nongovernmental organizations in successful programs related to the sustainability of their forest. The forest in Noh Bec is only part of a much larger area known as the Selva Maya, which includes the Yucatan Peninsula, Tabasco, and Chiapas, in Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala; Selva Maya is considered today the largest tropical forest in good conservation status in Mesoamerica. The case study suggests, as a first approximation, that the interaction of the stakeholders, each from different culture, has been and still is a successful intercultural process in which the leadership model related to the success in the sustainable management of the forest in Noh Bec is servant leadership.
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Background The Amazon rainforest plays an essential role in sheltering global biodiversity and providing essential ecosystem services. However, the region has been threatened by increased rates of deforestation and degradation, which is often reported as the failure of the Brazilian conservation policy that could affect the image of agriculture Brazilian products abroad. In this sense, here we aimed to evaluate the foreign environmental perception of the region using data from social medias, to assess which are the main terms related to the region, how their importance varies over time and whether this perception tends to be more negative or positive. For this, we used data from posts made on Twitter® involving the term “Amazon rainforest” over 18 weeks using a data mining process. From these posts, we extracted the text, which went through steps of cleaning and organization, as well as crossing with additional databases (such as the sentiment dictionary). From the final data set, we first evaluated which are the main terms present in these posts and how their importance varied in the evaluated period. Next, we assess whether the terms cited are mainly negative or positive and how this sentiment varied over the monitoring period. Results We found that the main terms are related to the environmental context such as “carbon”, “deforestation” and “fire” and that there is a relationship between their importance and the occurrence of fires in the region, which is positive with a temporal lag. In addition, we also found that the posts are, on average, composed of 68.47% of negative terms and that this sentiment predominates throughout the entire time series, being higher during the fire peaks in the region. Conclusion Our results indicate that the environmental perception of the region presented in the posts in Twitter® is mainly negative, due to the degradation and fires observed over the last few years. We also discuss limitations of the approach and establish perspectives for future work. Keywords: Tropical rainforest; social media; web-scrapping; sentiment analysis.
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The Handbook Corporate Social Entrepreneurship: Practices, Tools and Knowledge for Action intends to be an additional contribution to the practice and thinking of organisations about their contribution to economic and social cohesion in Europe. It offers a practical suggestion for organisations to break with the most harmful consequences of the capitalist model that preys on natural and human resources and to contribute to the transformation of the prevailing economic paradigm.
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The triple, intertwined challenges of climate change, the conversion of tropical forests to crop lands and grazing pastures, and the shortage of new arable land demand urgent solutions. The main approaches for increasing food production while sparing forests and lowering carbon emissions include sustainable supply chain initiatives, domestic policies and finance, and REDD+. These approaches are advancing largely in isolation, separated by different scales of intervention, performance metrics and levers for shaping land user behavior. As a result of this disconnect, farmers are receiving few, if any, positive incentives to forgo legal forest clearing and to invest in more sustainable production systems. These three approaches could become mutually reinforcing through integrated, performance-based incentive systems operating across regions and scales, linked through a shared metric of jurisdiction-wide performance introduced here as the Jurisdictional Performance System.
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The Amazon basin is a key component of the global carbon cycle, which is itself a determining factor for global climate. The rainforests in the basin store about 120 billion metric tons of carbon in their biomass. Indeed, the Amazon rainforest is considered to be a net carbon sink or reservoir because vegetation growth on average exceeds mortality, resulting in an annual net sink of between 0.8 to 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon. In Brazil, the basin is the home of about 25 million people, most in urban areas, but it also includes several unique indigenous and traditional cultures, and is the largest repository of global biodiversity. It is larger than the European Union (around 5.2 million square kilometers) and produces about 20 percent of the world’s fl ow of fresh water into the oceans. Current climate trends may be unbalancing this well-regulated system and, in association with land use changes, may be shifting the region from a carbon sink to a carbon source. Changing forest structure and behavior would have signifi cant implications for the local, regional and global carbon and water cycles. Amazon forest dieback would be a massive event, aff ecting all life-forms that rely on this diverse ecosystem, including humans, and producing ramifi cations for the entire planet. Clearly, with changes at a global scale at stake, there is a need to be􀄴 er understand the risk, and dynamics of Amazon dieback. Thus, the goal of this study is to assist in understanding the risk of a potential reduction in biomass density in the Amazon basin induced by climate change impacts (Amazon dieback) and its implications. Feedback and fertilization eff ects of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels on forest ecosystems like the Amazon have proven to be a key unknown in assessing the risk of Amazon forest dieback under 21st century climate change scenarios. Reducing this uncertainty ought to be a key priority going forward. In the absence of robust information, the precautionary principle applies, which in this case suggests that the assumption of carbon dioxide fertilization being an important factor positively aff ecting ecosystem resilience of the Amazon cannot be used as a basis for sound policy advice. Therefore, the study concludes that during this century, the probability of Amazon dieback is highest in the Eastern Amazon and lowest in the Northwest, but that its severity increases over time and also is a function of the global greenhouse gas emission trajectory considered. These results point to the need to avoid reaching a point in global emissions that would result in an induced loss of Amazon forests. Therefore, Amazon dieback should be considered a threshold for dangerous climate change.
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The recent 70% decline in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon suggests that it is possible to manage the advance of a vast agricultural frontier. Enforcement of laws, interventions in soy and beef supply chains, restrictions on access to credit, and expansion of protected areas appear to have contributed to this decline, as did a decline in the demand for new deforestation. The supply chain interventions that fed into this deceleration are precariously dependent on corporate risk management, and public policies have relied excessively on punitive measures. Systems for delivering positive incentives for farmers to forgo deforestation have been designed but not fully implemented. Territorial approaches to deforestation have been effective and could consolidate progress in slowing deforestation while providing a framework for addressing other important dimensions of sustainable development.
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Forests in Flux Forests worldwide are in a state of flux, with accelerating losses in some regions and gains in others. Hansen et al. (p. 850 ) examined global Landsat data at a 30-meter spatial resolution to characterize forest extent, loss, and gain from 2000 to 2012. Globally, 2.3 million square kilometers of forest were lost during the 12-year study period and 0.8 million square kilometers of new forest were gained. The tropics exhibited both the greatest losses and the greatest gains (through regrowth and plantation), with losses outstripping gains.
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Significance Whether the dry-season length will increase is a central question in determining the fate of the rainforests over Amazonia and the future global atmospheric CO 2 concentration. We show observationally that the dry-season length over southern Amazonia has increased significantly since 1979. We do not know what has caused this change, although it resembles the effects of anthropogenic climate change. The global climate models that were presented in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report seem to substantially underestimate the variability of the dry-season length. Such a bias implies that the future change of the dry-season length, and hence the risk of rainforest die-back, may be underestimated by the projections of these models.
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The 280 000 km² Xingu indigenous lands and protected areas (ILPAs) corridor, inhabited by 24 indigenous peoples and about 215 riverine (ribeirinho) families, lies across active agriculture frontiers in some of the historically highest-deforestation regions of the Amazon. Much of the Xingu is anthropogenic landscape, densely inhabited and managed by indigenous populations over the past millennium. Indigenous and riverine peoples' historical management and use of these landscapes have enabled their long-term occupation and ultimately their protection. The corridor vividly demonstrates how ILPAs halt deforestation and why they may account for a large part of the 70 per cent reduction in Amazon deforestation below the 1996-2005 average since 2005. However, ongoing and planned dams, road paving, logging and mining, together with increasing demand for agricultural commodities, continued degradation of upper headwaters outside ILPA borders and climate change impacts may render these gains ephemeral. Local peoples will need new, bottom-up, forms of governance to gain recognition for the high social and biological diversity of these territories in development policy and planning, and finance commensurate with the value of their ecosystem services. Indigenous groups' reports of changing fire and rainfall regimes may themselves evidence climate change impacts, a new and serious threat.
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Deforestation contributes 6-17% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. Large uncertainties in emission estimates arise from inadequate data on the carbon density of forests and the regional rates of deforestation. Consequently there is an urgent need for improved data sets that characterize the global distribution of aboveground biomass, especially in the tropics. Here we use multi-sensor satellite data to estimate aboveground live woody vegetation carbon density for pan-tropical ecosystems with unprecedented accuracy and spatial resolution. Results indicate that the total amount of carbon held in tropical woody vegetation is 228.7PgC, which is 21% higher than the amount reported in the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 (ref. ). At the national level, Brazil and Indonesia contain 35% of the total carbon stored in tropical forests and produce the largest emissions from forest loss. Combining estimates of aboveground carbon stocks with regional deforestation rates we estimate the total net emission of carbon from tropical deforestation and land use to be 1.0PgCyr-1 over the period 2000-2010--based on the carbon bookkeeping model. These new data sets of aboveground carbon stocks will enable tropical nations to meet their emissions reporting requirements (that is, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Tier 3) with greater accuracy.
Based on 15 years of research in Brazil, this book is an interdisciplinary documentation and analysis of the process of frontier change in one region of the Brazilian Amazon, the southern region of the state of Para. The authors' analysis was based on the idea that what they documented in the field - deforestation, settlement patterns, and the intensity of rural violence, for example - were the outcomes of the competition for resources among social groups capable of mobilizing varying degrees of power. The analysis of these contests illustrates how national and international factors often shaped events at the local level, thereby propelling the story of frontier expansion in different and unexpected directions. Part One focuses on Amazonia as a whole. The authors review the history of the region, and analyze the federal and state policies that set into motion the contemporary process of frontier expansion. In parts Two and Three, they present the results of their empirical work on the evolution of frontier communities in southern Para. Each local history develops the general themes put forth in the first section. The final chapter brings the text back to larger issues of understanding such frontier change, especially in light of the country's anthropological, sociological, and demographic shifts and collisions.