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Photo: NASA

Why the Amazon?

An unparalleled ecosystem in the world, the preservation of the Amazon Forest is one of the biggest and most complex challenges today, but also a great opportunity for a sustainable development model based on science, technology and innovation

The Amazon is the largest tropical forest in the world, with an area of approximately 5.5 million km2, of which 60% is in Brazilian territory. Its river basin is the largest global river system, covering more than 7 million km2 distributed between Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. The region hosts gigantic biodiversity, most of which is located in Brazil, representing the largest biome in the country. 


The region covers an important part of global natural resources and plays a vital role in the provision of environmental products and services in the carbon cycle and climate regulation. It has great strategic importance because, in addition to economic resources, such as water resources and extractivism, it has invaluable assets such as knowledge, language and culture of traditional populations. 


Water plays a fundamental role in maintaining the humid tropical forest, as it brings energy and nutrients to “three forest structures”: the floodplain, periodically flooded by white water rivers; the igapó, flooded by black water rivers; and the dry land, which, resistant to flooding, occupies more than 80% of the Amazon.


Since Alexander von Humboldt's expedition in the early 19th century, the Amazon has been a subject of great scientific interest. The region has very active universities and research institutes and a history of national and international cooperation. Large-scale research such as the LBA (Large-Scale Experiment in the Biosphere-Atmosphere in the Amazon) has allowed important advances in the knowledge of ecosystems and nature-society relationships in the Amazon. This research measures the impact of human actions, such as the advancement of deforestation, and shows the essential contribution of biodiversity to the regional and global climate. 


The scientific consensus indicates that forest preservation is fundamental to the sustainability of the planet. The studies also show the challenge of “... transforming the value of the forest's environmental services into a monetary flow that can be used to maintain the forest and to maintain the human population that defends it.” 


It is important to highlight that many studies present ways to mitigate adverse effects on indigenous, riverside and urban communities, indicating a sustainable path for the region's development. 


However, despite being characterized as the region that hosts the greatest natural biodiversity in the country, its socioeconomic development, around activities related to the forest, has not yet reached its full potential. The region has not yet found ways to regulate and combat chronic problems such as deforestation and illegal mining. 


There is a huge challenge in terms of land regularization and there is a lack of plans for inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Scientific research plays an important role in a sustainable development program, by supporting evidence-based public policy decisions and private investments. 


The Amazon biome is rich in biological diversity, but the region needs more investments in science, technology and innovation, in basic and applied research and in qualified human resources. Seeing the Amazon from its singularities, potentialities, complexities and exciting challenges is a condition for understanding the importance of investments that will promote Science and Technology as the main instruments of its development, taking into account sustainability and competitiveness .


Well-established guidelines for strengthening the regional and intra-regional ST&I infrastructure, as well as expanding the number of highly qualified human resources and promoting scientific and technological research are strategic conditions for the necessary advances, as this region also has unequivocal potential for the generation of innovation, production, processing, commercialization and consumption of products originating from biodiversity on the basis of sustainability. 

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