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.
Developing land without approval of local people 'a human rights issue of grave concern,' says new report
(11/20/2014) Throughout the tropics, staggering amounts of land have been designated for natural resource extraction—as much as 40 percent of Peru, 30 percent of Indonesia and 35 percent of Liberia. However, much of this land is already in use; it is being inhabited by local communities and indigenous peoples. And while it is possible to live on and extract resources from the same land, when local communities are not consulted in this exchange, conflict may erupt.
A tale of 2 Perus: Climate Summit host, 57 murdered environmentalists
(11/18/2014) On September 1st, indigenous activist, Edwin Chota, and three other indigenous leaders were gunned down and their bodies thrown into rivers. Chota, an internationally-known leader of the Asháninka in Peru, had warned several times that his life was on the line for his vocal stance against the destruction of his peoples' forests, yet the Peruvian government did nothing to protect him—or others.
Field plots offer biased view of the Amazon
(11/17/2014) Field plots in the Amazon are often not representative of the habitats surrounding them, potentially biasing extrapolations made across the region, argues a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The research is based on advanced three-dimensional mapping of forest structure within field plots and in surrounding areas using sensors aboard the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, an airplane-based system.
Local people are not the enemy: real conservation from the frontlines
(11/12/2014) Saving one of the world's most endangered primates means re-thinking conservation. When Noga Shanee and her colleagues first arrived in Northeastern Peru on a research trip to study the yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda), she was shocked by what she observed.
Peru has massive opportunity to avoid emissions from deforestation
(11/10/2014) Nearly a billion tons of carbon in Peru's rainforests is at risk from logging, infrastructure projects, and oil and gas extraction, yet opportunities remain to conserve massive amounts of forest in indigenous territories, parks, and unprotected areas, finds a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
'River wolves' recover in Peruvian park, but still remain threatened inside and out (photos)
(10/14/2014) Lobo de río, or river wolf, is the very evocative Spanish name for one of the Amazon's most spectacular mammals: the giant river otter. This highly intelligent, deeply social, and simply charming freshwater predator almost vanished entirely due to a relentless fur trade in the 20th Century. But decades after the trade in giant river otter pelts was outlawed, the species is making a comeback.
Scientists uncover six potentially new species in Peru, including bizarre aquatic mammal (photos)
(09/25/2014) A group of Peruvian and Mexican scientists say they have uncovered at least six new species near South America's most famous archaeological site: Machu Picchu. The discoveries include a new mammal, a new lizard, and four new frogs. While the scientists are working on formally describing the species, they have released photos and a few tantalizing details about the new discoveries.
In the shadows of Machu Picchu, scientists find 'extinct' cat-sized mammal
(09/25/2014) Below one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, scientists have made a remarkable discovery: a living cat-sized mammal that, until now, was only known from bones. The Machu Picchu arboreal chinchilla rat (Cuscomys oblativa) was first described from two enigmatic skulls discovered in Inca pottery sculpted 400 years ago.
4 Ashaninka tribesmen killed by loggers in Peru
(09/08/2014) One of those killed was Edwin Chota, the leader of the Alto Tamaya-Saweto indigenous community who won fame for fighting illegal loggers. As such, Chota was a top target for assassination, according to a conservationist familiar with the situation.
Conservationists use social media to take on Peru's booming illegal wildlife trade
(09/04/2014) Illegal wildlife trafficking is thriving in Peru. But a Peruvian organization is now using a public campaign, via social media and press releases, to track and rescue illegally kept wildlife in the country. 'I have filed 47 complaints from 14 different states in Peru including hundreds of animals commercialized illegally in markets, kept as pets, and used as tourist attractions,' said Noga Shanee, Co-founder and project director of Neotropical Primate Conservation.
Scientists uncover five new species of 'toupee' monkeys in the Amazon
(09/02/2014) While saki monkeys may be characterized by floppy mops of hair that resemble the worst of human toupees, these acrobatic, tree-dwelling primates are essential for dispersing seeds. After long being neglected by both scientists and conservationists, a massive research effort by one intrepid researcher has revealed the full-scale of saki monkey diversity, uncovering five new species.
How do we save the world's vanishing old-growth forests?
(08/26/2014) There's nothing in the world like a primary forest, which has never been industrially logged or cleared by humans. They are often described as cathedral-like, due to pillar-like trees and carpet-like undergrowth. Yet, the world's primary forests—also known as old-growth forests—are falling every year, and policy-makers are not doing enough to stop it.
Short-eared dog? Uncovering the secrets of one of the Amazon's most mysterious mammals
(07/28/2014) Fifteen years ago, scientists knew next to nothing about one of the Amazon's most mysterious residents: the short-eared dog. Although the species was first described in 1883 and is considered the sole representative of the Atelocynus genus, biologists spent over a century largely in the dark about an animal that seemed almost a myth.
Peru slashes environmental protections to attract more mining and fossil fuel investment
(07/23/2014) In an effort to kickstart investment in mining and fossil fuels, Peru has passed a controversial law that overturns many of its environmental protections and essentially defangs its Ministry of Environment. The new law has environmentalists not only concerned about its impact on the country but also that the measures will undermine progress at the up-coming UN Climate Summit in December.
Roads through the rainforest: an overview of South America's 'arc of deforestation'
(07/21/2014) When a new road centipedes its way across a landscape, the best of intentions may be laid with the pavement. But roads, by their very nature, are indiscriminate pathways, granting access for travel and trade along with deforestation and other forms of environmental degradation. And as the impacts of roads on forest ecosystems become clear, governments and planning agencies reach a moral crossroads.
Fly and wasp biodiversity in Peru linked to strange defense strategy
(06/18/2014) Entomologists working in Peru have revealed new and unprecedented layers of diversity amongst wasps and flies. The paper, published in the journal Science, also describes a unique phenomenon in which flies actually fight back and kill predatory parasitic wasps.
Feather forensics: scientist uses genes to track macaws, aid bird conservation
(06/17/2014) When a massive road project connected the ports of Brazil to the shipping docks of Peru in 2011, conservationists predicted widespread impacts on wildlife. Roads are a well-documented source of habitat fragmentation, interfering with access to available habitat for many terrestrial and tree-dwelling species. However, it wasn’t clear whether or not birds are able to fly over these barriers.
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.