Peruvian Amazon lost 28.6 thousand km2 of vegetation cover in 36 years

The Peruvian Amazon basin has undergone major changes in the last 36 years, such as the loss of 28,600 km2 of natural vegetation cover. This change includes the loss of 19,000 km2 of forest and 10,000 km2 of non-forest natural formation, according to the results for Peru of the MapBiomas Amazonia study on land cover and land use changes in the region between 1985 and 2020.

According to Nicole Moreno of the Instituto del Bien Común (IBC), this accelerated transformation of the Peruvian Amazon is mainly due to human action, which has generated, for example, a 61% increase in the area used for agricultural activities (26,000 km2), a 5.8-fold increase in the area used for mining (624 km2) and a 2.8-fold increase in urban infrastructure (478 km2).

The analysis of the Amazon Mapbiomes for Peru was presented this Friday (18) by the Instituto del Bien Común (IBC) in a publication with detailed data on the changes that have occurred in the last 36 years in the natural cover of the Peruvian Amazon basin.

According to Richard Smith, a member of the IBC Assembly, "this document, achieved thanks to the progress of technology and the great efforts of the Raisg technical team, reveals the dynamics of change in the region, making it possible to identify the areas where these changes have meant the loss of large areas of forest and other natural cover, and those where nature remains intact. The analysis helps to strengthen the messages we have built up about the dramatic transformations taking place in the Peruvian Amazon basin and the Amazon in general, which are leading to a point of no return for this region that, as the largest continuous tropical forest on the planet, plays such an important role in climate regulation."

According to the Raisg boundary for Peru, the Peruvian Amazon basin covers 75% of the national territory (96,600 km2) and comprises the Amazon biome (80% of the basin) and the Andes biome (20%). The analysis of cover change in the Andean biome, which corresponds to the headwaters of the Amazon rivers, shows a 49% loss of glaciers in the Peruvian Andes in the analyzed period (1985-2020). "This retreat of glaciers, mainly attributable to climate change, is very worrying, because in the short term this phenomenon means the loss of water sources for communities, and in the medium and long term it can compromise the hydrology of the basin," says Efraín Turpo, IBC expert.

The natural protected areas occupy 21% of the Peruvian Amazon basin. The loss of natural vegetation cover in these units during the period studied was 1000 km2 (0.4%), of which 500 km2 corresponds to the expansion of agricultural activities.

Indigenous territories

Indigenous territories represent 37% of the Peruvian Amazon basin. Within these units, 98% of the natural vegetation cover present in 1985 is conserved. That is, in the following 36 years 2% of it was lost (7,000 km2), the main cause of change being the expansion of agricultural activity (approximately 6,000 km2).

Luis Hallazi, an IBC expert, warns about the possible repercussions of the impact of the pressures on indigenous territories: "Despite the increasing pressures and threats to these territories, indigenous populations have significantly slowed the advance of deforestation and forest degradation compared to what has happened in their neighboring areas. Our concern is that in the coming years their good management and their connection to the forests will not be sufficient tools for conservation; therefore, we demand their recognition and the presence of local, regional and national authorities to implement action plans that contribute to forest conservation."

Collection 3.0

The data for the Peruvian Amazon basin was extracted from the Annual Amazon Land Cover and Land Use Map 3.0, presented to the public in September 2021. The Amazon Network for Geo-referenced Socio-environmental Information (Raisg) generated this data through MapBiomas Amazônia, a mapping tool that allows monitoring of land use changes throughout the Amazon and tracking pressures on its forests and natural ecosystems. Collection 3.0 brings together more than three decades of Amazon land cover and land use history into annual maps from 1985 to 2020 at a resolution of 30 meters.

All information can be visualized through regional, national and even local maps, identifying areas covered by forests, natural grasslands, mangroves, agriculture and cattle ranching, and rivers, among other categories. The platform is located at amazonia.mapbiomas.org.