Source: The Guardian Unlimited
Oil and gas access roads in western Amazon could open up ‘Pandora’s box’ of environmental impacts
Oil and gas roads are encroaching deeper into the western Amazon, one of the world’s last wildernesses and biodiversity hotspots, according to a new study.
Roads across Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and western Brazil could open up a ‘Pandora’s box’ of negative environmental impacts and trigger new deforestation fronts, the study published in Environmental Research Letters finds.
“The hydrocarbon frontier keeps pushing deeper into the Amazon and there needs to be a strategic plan for how future development takes place in regards to roads,” said the report’s lead author, Matt Finer, of the Amazon Conservation Association.
“We pay particular attention to access roads because they are a well-documented primary driver of deforestation and forest degradation.”
Western Amazonian oil and gas blocks now cover an area much larger than the US state of Texas – more than 730,000 square kilometres – and have expanded by more than 150,000 sq km since 2008, the study finds.
Oil and gas access roads, particularly in the Ecuadorian Amazon, cause both direct forest loss and indirect impacts from subsequent colonisation, illegal logging, and over-hunting, it says.