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.
China unveils plans for huge railway in South America
(05/27/2015) China is looking to add another rung to its investment presence in Latin America, with an announcement of plans to build an expansive railway bisecting the continent from Brazil to Peru. The bid has raised the hackles of conservation groups, which are concerned the railway will run through sensitive ecosystems, harm threatened wildlife, and affect indigenous communities.
Primary rainforest cleared for massive palm oil plantations in Peru
(05/20/2015) More than 9,400 hectares of closed-canopy Amazonian rainforest has been removed for two oil palm plantations in the Peruvian region of Ucayali since 2011, according to scientists working for MAAP, the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project. The two plantations are linked to Czech entrepreneur Dennis Melka.
62M ha of Latin American forests cleared for agriculture since 2001
(05/19/2015) Over 62 million hectares (240,000 square miles) of forest across Latin America — an area roughly the size of Texas or the United Kingdom — were cleared for new croplands and pastureland between 2001 and 2013, find a study published in Environmental Research Letters.
China’s investment in Latin America taking toll on the environment, setting the stage for conflict
(05/18/2015) China has been investing heavily in Latin America’s natural resources and crude oil. Recently, the country even pledged to invest $250 billion over the next decade to strengthen its presence in the region, and compete with the U.S. But this increasing Chinese trade and investment in Latin America is also increasing environmental and social conflict, finds a new report published by Boston University.
What's the current deforestation rate in the Amazon rainforest?
(05/15/2015) Nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest is located in Brazil, making it the biggest component in the region's deforestation rate. Helpfully, Brazil also has the best systems for tracking deforestation, with the government and Imazon, a national civil society organization, releasing updates on a quarterly and monthly basis using MODIS satellite data, respectively. Both the Brazilian government and Imazon release more accurate data on an annual basis using higher resolution Landsat satellite imagery.
New mapping project uncovers road networks in Peru’s primary forests
(05/13/2015) A research team unearthed a suspicious network of roads in northern Peru in early 2013. For two years, they watched the network grow to over 150 kilometers in length, split into two networks. The southern part of the network is located entirely in the protected buffer region of the Cordillera de Azul National Park, and is characteristic of roads meant for logging.
Peru considers fate of Amazon wildlife paradise
(05/08/2015) The fate of La Sierra del Divisor, a 1.5 million hectare reserve lauded for its megadiversity of wildlife, will soon to be decided. According to El Comercio, next week the Peruvian government is expected to rule whether Divisor will be declared a national park. The designation, which was requested by local groups nearly a decade ago, would strengthen legal protection of the area, which faces logging, mining, coca cultivation, and agricultural encroachment. It would also establish rules for the buffer zone around the potential protected area.
World's critical habitats lost Connecticut-size area of forest in a decade
(05/08/2015) Many of the world's endangered animals live in only one place, making them hugely susceptible to environmental upset. One fell swoop, and entire species could disappear from existence forever. New analysis shows that possibility may be edging closer and closer to reality in some areas, with forests known to harbor high-risk species losing an area of tree cover the size of Connecticut in a little over a decade.
Borneo's rainforest may get high-tech 3D scan to boost conservation
(05/04/2015) Conservation efforts in Borneo's embattled rainforest may get a boost with the launch of the newest version of an advanced airplane-based monitoring and assessment system. On Friday, the Carnegie Institution officially unveiled the latest upgrade of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, an airplane equipped with technologies that enable scientists to conduct extremely high resolution scans of forest structure, biomass, and biological diversity. The platform has generated a wealth of information in places where it has been flown before.
Featured video: the Uncharted Amazon trailer
(04/29/2015) The up-coming documentary, Uncharted Amazon, promises to highlight both the little-seen wildlife and the people of the Las Piedras River system in the Peruvian Amazon, one of the most remote wildernesses on the planet.
Peru's mega-dam projects threaten Amazon River source and ecosystem collapse
(04/28/2015) Peru is planning a series of huge hydroelectric dams on the 1,700-kilometer (1,056-mile) Marañón River, which begins in the Peruvian Andes and is the main source of the Amazon River. Critics say the mega-dam projects could destroy the currently free-flowing Marañón, resulting in what Peruvian engineer Jose Serra Vega calls its 'biological death'.
Camera traps catch rare Amazon bird following peccaries
(04/21/2015) Although a large, attractive bird found across Latin America, scientists know almost nothing about the rufous-vented ground cuckoo (Neomorphus geoffroyi). Renzo Piana, the director of science and research with the Amazon Conservation Association, described the bird as "rare," "cryptic," "mainly solitary," and "mostly silent"—much of which explains why so little is known about it.
Court rules deforestation of Peruvian rainforest for chocolate was legal
(04/16/2015) A regional court in Loreto, Peru recently ruled that the clearing of more than 2,000 hectares of forest by Cacao del Peru Norte for a plantation to grow cacao, the raw material behind chocolate, was legal, reported the investigative news site OjoPúblico on April 9. The ruling rejects contentions brought by Forestry Department that the company should have sought approval to clear the trees.
Lima to restore pre-Incan aqueducts to alleviate its water crisis
(04/16/2015) To tackle a looming water crisis, the city of Lima, Peru, is planning a series of green infrastructure projects, including the restoration of an ancient network of aqueducts in the mountains above the city. With a rapidly growing population of around 8.75 million Lima is the world's second largest desert city, and no stranger to water shortages.
9 months after Amazonian oil pipeline spill, effects and fears linger
(03/30/2015) When Peru's state-run oil company pulled out of this small Kukama Indian village in mid-December after cleaning up an oil pipeline spill, residents thought life could slowly return to normal. But more than three months later, wisps of oil floating down the Cuninico River—along with a larger spill in the neighboring community of San Pedro—are a reminder that the problems are not over.
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.
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.