Forest CoverTotal forest area: 68,742,000 ha % of land area: 53.7%
Primary forest cover: 61,065,000 ha % of land area: 47.7% % total forest area: 88.8%
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005Annual change in forest cover: -94,200 ha Annual deforestation rate: -0.1% Change in defor. rate since '90s: 1.3% Total forest loss since 1990: -1,414,000 ha Total forest loss since 1990:-2.0%
Primary or "Old-growth" forests Annual loss of primary forests: -224600 ha Annual deforestation rate: -0.4% Change in deforestation rate since '90s: 214.7% Primary forest loss since 1990: -1,123,000 ha Primary forest loss since 1990:-2.9%
Forest ClassificationPublic: 83.1% Private: 15.2% Other: 1.7% Use Production: 36.7% Protection: 0.5% Conservation: 26.9% Social services: n.s.% Multiple purpose: 26% None or unknown: 9.9
Forest Area BreakdownTotal area: 68,742,000 ha Primary: 61,065,000 ha Modified natural: 6,923,000 ha Semi-natural: n/a Production plantation: 754,000 ha Production plantation: n/a
PlantationsPlantations, 2005: 754,000 ha % of total forest cover: 1.1% Annual change rate (00-05): 7,800,000 ha
Carbon storageAbove-ground biomass: n/a M t Below-ground biomass: n/a M t
Area annually affected byFire: 35,000 ha Insects: n/a Diseases: n/a
Number of tree species in IUCN red listNumber of native tree species: 2,500 Critically endangered: 33 Endangered: 14 Vulnerable: 54
Peru has the third largest extent of tropical rainforests in the world, after Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These forests are some of the richest in the world, both in terms of biological diversity and natural resources (timber, energy, mineral resources).
Forest Cover and Deforestation
About half of Peru is forested. Of this, more than 80 percent is classified as primary forest. The FAO estimates that the country loses somewhere between 224,000 and 300,000 hectares of forest per year, giving it an annual deforestation rate of 0.35-0.5 percent, a low rate relative to neighboring countries. Most of this deforestation is the result of subsistence agriculture, which can largely be attributed to the migration of farmers from the highlands taking advantage of Peru's land-tenure law which allows people to own land by occupying it for five years.
Deforestation and degradation are also increasingly the result of development activities, especially logging, commercial agriculture, mining, gas and oil operations, and road construction.
Peru has not experienced the industrial timber harvesting—whereby large tracts of forests are clear cut for timber—seen in other parts of the Amazon. Most logging in Peru has been selective, thereby degrading forest rather than completely clearing it. Such forests can, for the most part, recover much of their previous biodiversity within a couple of generations, though they are more susceptible to fires and face a higher likelihood of being subsequently cleared for agriculture. Thus far, there has been relatively little foreign involvement in the Peruvian timber industry, moderating the impact of logging.
Currently most logging in Peru is illegal. One scientist at the Research Institute of the Peruvian Amazon estimates that 95 percent of the mahogany logged in the country is harvested illegally. Because the wood is so valuable, traffickers are known to cut trees inside national parks and reserves. They also have little to fear: as of early 2006, not a single commercial logger had been imprisoned in Peru for illegal logging.
In recent years, the Peruvian government has granted large energy concessions in ecologically-sensitive areas including a December 2005 development deal with China National Petroleum Corporation. The $83 million agreement covered 3.7 million acres (1.5 million hectares) of forest in the state of Madre de Dios Region, an area home to more than 10 percent of the world's bird species and a popular destination for eco-tourists.
A further source of deforestation and environmental degradation in the Peruvian Amazon is gold mining. Peru's forests are home to alluvial gold deposits that are pursued by large-scale operators and informal, small-scale miners. Both kinds of operators rely heavily on hydraulic mining techniques, blasting away at river banks, clearing floodplain forests, and using heavy machinery to expose potential gold-yielding gravel deposits. Mercury contamination and increased river sedimentation can be a problem downstream from operations, while mining roads can open remote forest areas to transient settlers and land speculators. Further, shantytowns that spring up in areas believed to hold gold deposits increase pressure on forests for building material, bushmeat, fuelwood, and agricultural land.
One of the most significant threats to Peru's rainforests in the southeastern part of the country is a road project that will connect the Pacific ports of Matarini, Ilo, and San Juan to a highway in Brazil. It is dubbed the "transoceanic highway"; environmentalists and local indigenous groups are concerned that the improved road will spur colonization and subsequent deforestation as has happened with similar road projects in neighboring Brazil. The road will likely worsen illegal logging in the region's protected areas.
In the 1980s and 1990s extensive areas in the Andean foothills were cleared for coca plantations. Falling coca leaf prices and eradication efforts by the government cut the area under cultivation from 115,300 hectares in 1995 to 31,150 hectares in 2003. Soybean cultivation is expanding in the lowlands as is land clearing for cattle pasture. Generally, fires are used for land clearing for agriculture in Peru. In dry years, these fires can burn out of control and spread into pristine forests.
Peru has some 2,937 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles, according to figures from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Of these, 16.0 percent are endemic, meaning they exist in no other country, and 7.6 percent are threatened. Peru is home to at least 17,144 species of vascular plants, of which 31.2 percent are endemic.
With its biodiversity and remarkable cultural attractions and archeological treasures, Peru is a top destination for tourists. Eco-tourism in the Peruvian Amazon is popular, and there are a number of world-class forest lodges and reserves. Manu and Tambopata are an ideal introduction to the rainforest ecosystem and are highly recommended. Wildlife abounds and local indigenous guides can be excellent.
Photos: expedition to Amazon’s white sands may have found new primate
(03/24/2015) Most people think of the Amazon rainforest as one massive, homogenous ecosystem—a giant castle of green. However, within the Amazon rainforest lie a myriad of distinct ecosystems, sporting unique characteristics and harboring endemic species. One of the rarer ecosystems in the Amazon is the white sands forest.
Road rage: scientists denounce $60 trillion infrastructure expansion
(03/14/2015) Last November, at the annual G-20 summit - for the 20 wealthiest of the world’s nations - in Brisbane, Australia, a staggering commitment was made to invest $60 to $70 trillion worldwide in new infrastructure over the next 15 years. This is akin to doubling the current value of all global infrastructure put together.
Photo essay: filming in the remote Amazon
(03/09/2015) You wake up at 4:30 AM, a little before the first rays of tropical sun begin to dance behind the treetops. You put on your wet clothes from the previous day, pack your bag, and pick up your tripod. The jungle is shrouded in a thick mist from the previous nights rain. As you walk, you recognize many of the strange calls that echo between the trees.
Researchers propose improvements for Peru's protected areas
(02/26/2015) In a study published recently in PLOS ONE, researchers examined Peru's network of protected areas. They found that many of these don't exist in the areas most important for preserving the country's biodiversity and addressing its threats, and suggest alternatives to make the system more effective.
Rainforest loss increased in the 2000s, concludes new analysis
(02/25/2015) Loss of tropical forests accelerated roughly 60 percent during the 2000s, argues a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The findings contradict previous research suggesting that deforestation slowed since the 1990s. The study is based on a map of 1990 forest cover developed last year by Do-Hyung Kim and colleagues from the University of Maryland. The map, which includes 34 countries that contain 80 percent of the world's tropical forests, enabled the researchers to establish a consistent baseline for tracking forest cover change across regions and countries over time.
Study finds Peru's protected areas aren't where they should be
(02/25/2015) Many of the world's protected areas may not be located in the areas that need them the most, according to a recently published study in the journal PLoS ONE. The study examined the effectiveness of Peru’s existing protected area system in holistically preserving the biodiversity in this megadiverse country, finding it inadequately protecting many of the country's species.
The Amazon's oil boom: concessions cover a Chile-sized bloc of rainforest
(02/04/2015) Hungry for oil revenue, governments and fossil fuel companies are moving even further into one of the world's last great wildernesses, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The total area set aside for oil and gas in the Western Amazon has grown by 150,000 square kilometers since 2008, now totaling more than 730,000 square kilometers—an area the size of Chile.
Mercury fish: gold mining puts downstream communities at risk in Peru
(02/02/2015) Artisanal, often illegal gold-mining, has swept across portions of the Peruvian Amazon over last decade, driven in part by a rising price in gold. The unregulated industry has resulted in widespread deforestation leading to an environmental disaster. Now a new study finds that mercury pollution has moved rapidly downstream and could be impacting communities at least 560 kilometers away.
Indigenous territories play dual role as homelands and protected areas
(01/22/2015) Indigenous communities claim—and scientific evidence increasingly shows—that indigenous forested territories are as well protected as, or better protected than, government-designated parks. In areas under pressure from roads or development projects, deforestation rates are sometimes even lower in indigenous territories than in official protected areas.
A model forest? Regional park balances local needs and conservation
(01/21/2015) Regional conservation area safeguards subsistence and spirituality in the Peruvian Amazon. For Alfredo Rojas, the history of the remote villages along the Ampiyacu River is one of enslavement. Growing up here, Rojas listened to his parents tell stories of the rubber barons who beat and killed the Indians who failed to meet their latex quota.
Company chops down rainforest to produce 'sustainable' chocolate
(01/20/2015) A cacao grower with roots in Southeast Asia’s palm oil industry has set up shop in the Peruvian Amazon. The CEO of United Cacao has told the international press that he wants to change the industry for the better, but a cadre of scientists and conservation groups charge that United Cacao has quietly cut down more than 2,000 hectares of rainforest.
No experience necessary: how studying tamarins led to an innovative research organization in the Amazon
(01/15/2015) While conducting doctoral research on tamarin reproductive biology in the Peruvian Amazon, Mrinalini Watsa realized she needed help in the field. Rather than hiring seasonal assistance she, along with Gideon Erkenswick, decided to create a life-changing non-profit organization, PrimatesPeru. The new NGO would allow students to conduct field research in one of the most biodiverse, yet threatened, places on Earth.
Amazon gold rush destroying huge swaths of rainforest
(01/14/2015) The rainforests of South America face many threats. The deforestation occurring on the continent is among the highest in the world and results in losses of habitat, biodiversity and massive amounts of sequestered carbon. While the usual culprits such as farming, ranching and logging are well known, gold mining is fast extending its destructive reach into some of the world’s most untouched landscapes, according to new research.
Peru’s first environment minister dies at 74
(01/07/2015) Born to a poor family of coffee farmers on the western slopes of the Andes in 1940, Antonio Brack Egg became one of Peru’s most respected ecologists and led the country in protecting its profound biodiversity. Completing his doctorate at the university of Wurzburg, Germany in 1973, Brack Egg started his life of Peruvian public service with the Ministry of Agriculture, working to reestablish threatened populations of vicuña (Vicugna vicugna), a relative of the llama, honored as Peru’s national animal.
Rainforests: 10 things to watch in 2015
(01/02/2015) 2014 was a landmark year for tropical rainforests, with dozens of major companies committing to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains, the launch of new platforms for monitoring forests, and sharp drop in clearing in the Brazilian Amazon, among other big developments. Here's a quick look ahead at what might be in store for tropical forests in 2015.
2014: the year in rainforests
(12/30/2014) 2014 could be classified as 'The Year of the Zero Deforestation Commitment'. During 2014, nearly two dozen major companies, ranging from palm oil producers to fast food chains to toothpaste makers, established policies to exclude palm oil sourced at the expense of rainforests and peatlands.
Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2014
(12/23/2014) In 2014, the unimaginable happened: companies representing the majority of palm oil production and trade agreed to stop cutting down rainforests and draining peatlands for new oil palm plantations. After years of intense campaigning by environmentalists and dire warnings from scientists, nearly two dozen major producers, traders, and buyers established zero deforestation policies.
Edited Reality: What I Learned from Filming Eaten Alive
(12/22/2014) On November 3, 2014, I woke up to check my flight status from Bangalore to New York. What I found when I opened my laptop was a mindboggling amount of emails, hate mail, death threats, and interview requests. The numbers were staggering. The night before, the Discovery Channel had aired the first trailers for the show they decided to call Eaten Alive.
Amazonian peatlands store mega carbon
(12/17/2014) Peatlands in the Peruvian Amazon store ten times the amount of carbon as undisturbed rainforest in adjacent areas, making them critical in the battle to fight climate change, finds a new study published in Environmental Research Letters.
Initiative to restore 50M acres of degraded Latin American ecosystems by 2020
(12/07/2014) A coalition of governments and organizations today pledged to restore 20 million hectares (50 million acres) of degraded forests and ecosystems across Latin America by 2020 under an initiative that aims to curb boost rural incomes, fight climate change, and increase agricultural production. The effort is backed by $365 million from five impact investors.
Giant stone face unveiled in the Amazon rainforest (video)
(12/04/2014) A new short film documents the journey of an indigenous tribe hiking deep into their territory in the Peruvian Amazon to encounter a mysterious stone countenance that was allegedly carved by ancient peoples. According to Handcrafted Films, which produced the documentary entitled The Reunion, this was the first time the Rostro Harakbut has been filmed.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated from mongabay.com operations (server, data transfer, travel) are mitigated through an association with Anthrotect,
an organization working with Afro-indigenous and Embera communities to protect forests in Colombia's Darien region. Anthrotect is protecting the habitat of mongabay's mascot: the scale-crested pygmy tyrant.
"Rainforest" is used interchangeably with "rain forest" on this site. "Jungle" is generally not used.