Oil impact on exploitation of Amazon rainforest and loss of biodiversity

Photo credit: DAPA

Density Analysis of natural vegetation loss in the Amazonas of Ecuador, based on the Terra-i system, in the period from January 2004 to February 2015.

Ecuadorian Amazon: Black or Green Gold?

by Jhon Jairo Tello

Blog post by Bernadette Menzinger. Revision of English version by Paul Peters (CIAT).

Ecuador is recognized as one of the biodiverse hotspots on earth, underneath the Amazon rainforest lies the country’s oil reservoir. With the oil companies and cleared routes come settlers, therefore more and more of this diverse rainforest is being cut down.

Since the oil concerns entered the Ecuadorian Amazon 45 years ago, they keep exploring and exploiting the area. The Terra-i detections reveal a total habitat loss of 87,525 Ha, 16,943 Ha (19%) is part of protected areas, between January 2004 and February 2015.

Oil vs Biodiversity in Ecuador

After extensive banana exportation the main economic gain of Ecuador shifted towards oil in the 1970s. While the oil prices are fluctuating, the demand for black gold remains high. The exploration and detection beneath the Amazonas of new oil fields leads to the exploitation of the resource and natural and cultural variety can be put in danger. The biodiversity is enormous, there are 2500 registered tree and shrub species, but the estimation goes up to 3100. Although there are protected areas, the government does not restrict the oil companies entering these areas (GREENBERG et al., 2005).

Oil companies construct access roads and drilling platforms to exploit the region for almost 50 years now. Attracted by these cleared routes people settle nearby, cut and burn more forest for agriculture or domestic animals (BUTLER, 2012). An example would be an oil pipeline which is 420 km long, traversing the Amazon and the Andean mountain range clearing forest in each habitat (YASUNI GREEN GOLD 2008). Another example of destruction is a 150 km long road right through the Yasuní National Park, which was built in the mid-1990s (GREENBERG et al., 2005).  By means of those examples, it has been proven that the construction of roads and subsequent settlers has the biggest impact on the exploitation of the Amazon rainforest and its related deforestation.


Terra-i detects the impact of oil drilling

Read the full article: CIAT – DAPA

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

%d bloggers like this: