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To save the rainforest, let the locals take control
by Fred Pearce
Global intervention in tropical forests to combat climate change could sideline their most effective guardians
SATELLITE images of the Amazon rainforest are startling. Islands of green are surrounded by brown areas of land cleared for farming. In places, the brown advances, year by year. But in others, the forest holds firm. Why the difference? Mostly, the surviving green areas belong to local tribes.
Brazil’s Kayapo, for instance, control 10.6 million hectares along the Xingu river in the south-eastern Amazon, an area often called the “arc of deforestation”. They held back the invasion that engulfed areas close by, often violently repelling loggers, gold miners, cattle ranchers and soya farmers. The Kayapo have kept deforestation rates “close to zero”, according to Daniel Nepstad, a long-time Amazon researcher now at the Earth Innovation Institute in San Francisco.
In these critical frontier zones, the assumption was that government protection could best halt the onslaught. But there is growing evidence that indigenous peoples often provide a stronger bulwark than state decree. The 300 or so indigenous territories created in the Brazilian Amazon since 1980 are now widely held to have played a key role in a dramatic decline in rates of deforestation there.
Similar effects have been documented in many other parts of the world. Forest dwellers are typically seen as forest destroyers. But the opposite is often the case, says David Bray of Florida International University.
Read the full article: New Scientist
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