Suriname's extensive forest cover and low population, about 400,000 concentrated in the capital and coastal cities, give it one of the lowest deforestation rates in the world. Only 5 percent of the population lives in the rainforest; this includes indigenous peoples and six tribes of Maroons—descendants of escaped slaves who recreated forest communities centuries ago and today retain their traditional West African style (ironic since West Africa's rainforests are depleted). Conflicts between the coastal population and the natives of the forested interior manifested themselves in a bloody six-year civil war that was resolved in 1992 with the signing of a peace treaty. Under the treaty, the interior and indigenous populations have the right to their indigenous lands and to control economic activity on those lands.
||Suriname Forest Figures
Total forest area: 14,776,000 ha
% of land area: 94.7%
Primary forest cover: 14,214,000 ha
% of land area: 91.1%
% total forest area: 96.2%
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: n/a
Annual deforestation rate: n/a
Change in defor. rate since '90s: n/a
Total forest loss since 1990: n/a
Total forest loss since 1990:0.0%
Primary or "Old-growth" forests
Annual loss of primary forests: n/a
Annual deforestation rate: n/a
Change in deforestation rate since '90s: n/a
Primary forest loss since 1990: n/a
Primary forest loss since 1990:0.0%
Social services: n/a
Multiple purpose: 3.3%
None or unknown: 56.8
Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 14,776,000 ha
Primary: 14,214,000 ha
Modified natural: 550,000 ha
Semi-natural: 5,000 ha
Production plantation: 7,000 ha
Production plantation: n/a
Plantations, 2005: 7,000 ha
% of total forest cover: n.s.%
Annual change rate (00-05): n/a
Above-ground biomass: 8,016 M t
Below-ground biomass: 3,367 M t
Area annually affected by
Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 600
Critically endangered: 1
Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 200,000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: 5,000 m3 o.b.
Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: $15,000,000
Wood fuel: $60,000
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): n/a
Total Value: $15,060,000
More forest statistics for Suriname
Despite being ranked by the World Bank as among the 17 potentially richest countries in the world, given its gold, oil, diamond, and other natural resources, Suriname in the early 1990s was in a dire economic situation. It had virtually no international trade, dilapidated industries, no foreign aid, and a budget with spending exceeding revenues by 150 percent.
By the mid-1990s, the government—desperate for cash—granted large concessions to foreign timber and mining interests. Some 25 percent of the country was put up for logging by Malaysian and Indonesian timber firms. The terms of the agreement, full of loopholes, granted forest land at less than $35 an acre ($262 m for 7.5 m acres). Analysis of the figures showed that while loggers stood to make more than US$28 million annually over the 25-year concession, Suriname would only earn get US$2 million per year. Further, according to forestry experts, the only profitable way to log regions in Suriname is by clear-cutting.
In late 1995 widespread protests by a coalition of indigenous maroons, environmentalists, and the local timber industry helped foil part of a deal that would have further expanded a concession owned by MUSA of Indonesia. Nevertheless, MUSA continued to log other concessions with abandon. According to local reports, the company's close relationship with legislators allowed it to escape prosecution for violating existing forestry regulations.
On Oct. 7, 1997, the Surinamese government established a forestry project to monitor and control logging in addition to setting aside new protected areas. The controversy and pressure inspired by the plan to hand out giant logging concessions to Berjaya, MUSA, and Suri Atlantic in 1995 made the government more cautious about granting logging concessions, and it subsequently refused a number of timber concession applications. In June 1998, the government announced the establishment of the Central Suriname Wilderness Nature Reserve, covering 1,592,000 hectares.
While the giant concessions granted in 1995 did not come to fruition in the late 1990s, several smaller concessions were actively logged. Outdated forestry laws—which provided very little revenue for the government per log harvested (one cent per log according to a report from Forestsmonitor.org)—meant that the forest service was chronically unstaffed, concession monitoring was poor, and enforcement was lax. This appears to be still the case today, and corruption in the forest service is also a major problem.
According to FAO data, in 2002 Suriname produced 203,000 cubic meters of industrial roundwood, sawnwood, and wood-based panels; 35,000 cubic meters of this was exported, suggesting that logging is indeed still occurring today. In August 2003, an International Tropical Timber Organization mission observed that "despite the best efforts of the Government of Suriname, the country is still far from implementing sustainable forest management, in part because of insufficient institutional capacity."
A second major cause of concern to environmentalists is the developing mining sector. Suriname is known to have rich deposits of gold and bauxite, and mining companies working in the country have checkered pasts with regards to human rights and environmental safeguards. One company, Golden Star Resources of Canada, was responsible for a massive cyanide spill in neighboring Guyana in 1995 and caused the forceable eviction of hundreds of local people.
Suriname's inexpensive power costs make it attractive to the energy-intensive aluminum business. In the 1960s, the Alcoa aluminum company built a dam at Afobaka, which flooded 1,560 square kilometers (600 square miles) of forest and created one of the largest artificial lakes in the world.
All these developments suggest deforestation is likely on the rise in Suriname, but deforestation figures for the country are spotty. The FAO has not updated its forestry statistics for Suriname since 1990.
The Surinamese government has recently taken steps to bolster its nascent eco-tourism industry. More than 12 percent of the country is now protected—at least on paper—and the government has forged a bioprospecting relationship with Bristol-Myers Squibb, a U.S. pharmaceutical company. Reportedly, the agreement will provide royalties to local peoples from any derived drugs. Russ Mittermier, head of Conservation International, which has a large presence in the country, estimates that revenue from drug sales would bring in far more than logging for the people of Suriname. The trade in rattan-like vines for furniture and other renewable forest products is growing.
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Deforestation rate falls across Amazon rainforest countries
(12/06/2012) The average annual rate of deforestation across Amazon rainforest countries dropped sharply in the second half of the 2000s, reports a comprehensive new assessment of the region's forest cover and drivers of deforestation. While the drop in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has been widely reported, several other Amazon countries saw their rates of forest loss drop as well, according to the report, which was published by a coalition of 11 Latin American civil society groups and research institutions that form the Amazonian Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG).
New forest map shows 6% of Amazon deforested between 2000 and 2010
(09/21/2012) An update to one of the most comprehensive maps of the Amazon basin shows that forest cover across the world's largest rainforest declined by about six percent between 2000 and 2010. But the map also reveals hopeful signs that recognition of protected areas and native lands across the eight countries and one department that make up the Amazon is improving, with conservation and indigenous territories now covering nearly half of its land mass.
Jaguar v. sea turtle: when land and marine conservation icons collide
(05/16/2012) At first, an encounter between a jaguar (Panthera onca) and a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) seems improbable, even ridiculous, but the two species do come into fatal contact when a female turtle, every two to four years, crawls up a jungle beach to lay her eggs. A hungry jaguar will attack the nesting turtle, killing it with a bite to the neck, and dragging the massive animal—sometime all the way into the jungle—to eat the muscles around the neck and flippers. Despite the surprising nature of such encounters, this behavior, and its impact on populations, has been little studied. Now, a new study in Costa Rica's Tortuguero National Park has documented five years of jaguar attacks on marine turtles—and finds these encounters are not only more common than expected, but on the rise.
Photos: 46 new species found in little-explored Amazonian nation
(01/25/2012) South America's tiniest independent nation still hides a number of big surprises: a three week survey to the sourthern rainforests of Suriname found 46 potentially new species and recorded nearly 1,300 species in all. Undertaken by Conservation International's (CI) Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) the survey found new species of freshwater fish, insects, and a new frog dubbed the "cowboy frog" for the spur on its heel. While Suriname may be small, much of its forest, in the Guyana Shield region of the Amazon, remains intact and pristine. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 91 percent of Suriname is covered in primary forests, however this data has not been updated in over two decades.
8 Amazon countries pledge more coordination in rainforest conservation
(11/27/2011) Eight Amazon countries pledged greater cooperation in efforts to protect the world's largest rainforest from deforestation and illegal mining and logging, reports AFP.
Cameratraps take global snapshot of declining tropical mammals
(08/17/2011) A groundbreaking cameratrap study has mapped the abundance, or lack thereof, of tropical mammal populations across seven countries in some of the world's most important rainforests. Undertaken by The Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring Network (TEAM), the study found that habitat loss was having a critical impact on mammals. The study, which documented 105 mammals (nearly 2 percent of the world's known mammals) on three continents, also confirmed that mammals fared far better—both in diversity and abundance—in areas with continuous forest versus areas that had been degraded.
Indigenous peoples in Suriname still wait for land rights
(07/31/2011) Legal rights and recognition for the diverse indigenous peoples of Suriname have lagged behind those in other South American countries. Despite pressure from the UN and binding judgments by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Suriname has yet to recognize indigenous and tribal land rights, a situation that has disconnected local communities from decisions regarding the land they have inhabited for centuries and in some cases millennia. A new report, Securing Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Conservation in Suriname: A Review outlines how this lack of rights has alienated indigenous communities from conservation efforts in Suriname. Instead of having an active say in the creation of conservation reserves, as well as their management, decisions on indigenous lands have traditionally been imposed from the 'top-down' either by government officials or NGOs.
Brazilian tribe owns carbon rights to Amazon rainforest land
(12/09/2009) A rainforest tribe fighting to save their territory from loggers owns the carbon-trading rights to their land, according to a legal opinion released today by Baker & McKenzie, one of the world’s largest law firms. The opinion, which was commissioned by Forest Trends, a Washington, D.C.-based forest conservation group, could boost the efforts of indigenous groups seeking compensation for preserving forest on their lands, effectively paving the way for large-scale indigenous-led conservation of the Amazon rainforest. Indigenous people control more than a quarter of the Brazilian Amazon.
Ethnographic maps built using cutting-edge technology may help Amazon tribes win forest carbon payments
(11/29/2009) A new handbook lays out the methodology for cultural mapping, providing indigenous groups with a powerful tool for defending their land and culture, while enabling them to benefit from some 21st century advancements. Cultural mapping may also facilitate indigenous efforts to win recognition and compensation under a proposed scheme to mitigate climate change through forest conservation. The scheme—known as REDD for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation—will be a central topic of discussion at next month's climate talks in Copenhagen, but concerns remain that it could fail to deliver benefits to forest dwellers.
How rainforest shamans treat disease
(11/10/2009) Ethnobotanists, people who study the relationship between plants and people, have long documented the extensive use of medicinal plants by indigenous shamans in places around the world, including the Amazon. But few have reported on the actual process by which traditional healers diagnose and treat disease. A new paper, published in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, moves beyond the cataloging of plant use to examine the diseases and conditions treated in two indigenous villages deep in the rainforests of Suriname. The research, which based on data on more than 20,000 patient visits to traditional clinics over a four-year period, finds that shamans in the Trio tribe have a complex understanding of disease concepts, one that is comparable to Western medical science. Trio medicine men recognize at least 75 distinct disease conditions—ranging from common ailments like fever [këike] to specific and rare medical conditions like Bell's palsy [ehpijanejan] and distinguish between old (endemic) and new (introduced since contact with the outside world) illnesses. In an interview with mongabay.com, Lead author Christopher Herndon, currently a reproductive medicine physician at the University of California, San Francisco, says the findings are a testament to the under-appreciated healing prowess of indigenous shaman.
Biologists warn of rainforest mining threat from Alcoa, Newmont in Suriname
(02/23/2009) A prominent group of biologists are calling for Alcoa, Newmont Mining Corp, and other minerals conglomerates to forgo gold and bauxite mining operations in a biologically-rich zone in the South American country of Suriname.
Amazon rainforest in big trouble, says UN
(02/19/2009) Economic development could doom the Amazon warns a comprehensive new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The report — titled GEO Amazonia [PDF-21.3MB] — is largely a synthesis of previously published research, drawing upon studies by more than 150 experts in the eight countries that share the Amazon.
Payments for eco services could save the Amazon
(02/12/2009) Paying for the ecological services provided by the Amazon rainforest could be the key to saving it, reports a new analysis from WWF. The study, Keeping the Amazon forests standing: a matter of values, tallied the economic value of various ecosystem services afforded by Earth's largest rainforest. It found that standing forest is worth, at minimum, $426 per hectare per year.
Saving leatherback turtles in South America’s smallest country, Suriname: An interview with Liz McHuron
(01/27/2009) After a year studying marine biology at Moss Landing Marine Labs, Liz McHuron headed off to the little-known nation of Suriname to monitor leatherback sea turtles. Her responsibilities included implementing a conservation strategy for a particular beach, moving leatherback nests in danger of flooding, and educating volunteer workers on the biology, behavior, and conservation efforts of the world's largest, and most unique, marine turtle. I visited McHuron during her time at the beach of Galibi in Suriname; she proved to be the sort of scientist who refused to be deterred: breathtaking humidity or downpours, fer-de-lances on the beach or jaguars, Liz was always on the move, always working to aid the critically-endangered leatherbacks while studying them with the thoroughness inherit in a born scientist.
Markets could save rainforests: an interview with Andrew Mitchell
(08/17/2008) Markets may soon value rainforests as living entities rather than for just the commodities produced when they are cut down, said a tropical forest researcher speaking in June at a conservation biology conference in the South American country of Suriname. Andrew Mitchell, founder and director of the London-based Global Canopy Program (GCP), said he is encouraged by signs that investors are beginning to look at the value of services afforded by healthy forests.
High mineral prices drive rainforest destruction
(08/13/2008) The surging price of minerals is contributing to degradation and destruction of rainforests worldwide, warns a researcher writing in the current issue of New Scientist.
Account of 18th century Amazon adventurer to be published for the first time
(08/11/2008) After establishing his ingenious classification system in 1735, Carl Linnaeus, the greatest naturalist of his era, sent young and eager followers to all parts of the world to help him in the goal of collecting and cataloguing the world's species. It was a project unlike any before; Swedish naturalists, often referred to as Linnaeus's apostles, roamed as far as Japan, South America, Australia, and the Arctic with the same goal in mind—describing species according to Linnaeus's system.
Often overlooked, small wild cats are important and in trouble
(08/05/2008) While often over-shadowed by their larger and better-known relatives like lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars, small cats are important indicators of the health of an ecosystem, says a leading small cat expert who uses camera traps extensively to document and monitor mammals in the wild. Dr Jim Sanderson, a scientist with the Small Cat Conservation Alliance and Conservation International, is working to save some of the world's rarest cats, including the Andean cat and Guigna of South America and the bay, flat-headed, and marbled cats of Southeast Asia. In the process Sanderson has captured on film some of the planet's least seen animals, including some species that have never before been photographed. He has also found that despite widespread criticism, some corporate entities are effectively protecting remote wilderness areas.
An interview a shaman in the Amazon rainforest
(07/28/2008) Deep in the Suriname rainforest, an innovative conservation group is working with indigenous tribes to protect their forest home and culture using traditional knowledge combined with cutting-edge technology. The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) is partnering with the Trio, an Amerindian group that lives in the remote Suriname-Brazil border area of South America, to develop programs to protect their forest home from illegal gold miners and encroachment, improve village health, and strengthen cultural ties between indigenous youths and elders at a time when such cultures are disappearing even faster than rainforests. In June 2008 mongabay.com visited the community of Kwamalasamutu in Suriname to see ACT's programs in action. During the visit, Amasina, a Trio shaman who works with ACT, answered some questions about his role as a traditional healer in the village.
Volunteering with Leatherback Sea Turtles in Galibi, Suriname
(07/08/2008) The northern coast of Suriname is one of the best places in the world to view the largest turtle, the marine Leatherback. Watching the turtle rise out of the tides onto the beach gives one the sense of meeting something ancient, rare, and more sea-monster than marine turtle. Yet, if I call it a sea-monster, I do not mean that it is frightening or ugly: far from it. But it is mysterious, terrible, and wondrous.
Scientists call for mining ban, new protected areas in Suriname
(06/20/2008) In a resolution set forth at their annual meeting in Paramaribo, Suriname, the largest group of tropical biologists called upon the Surinamese government to evict informal gold miners from three ecologically important areas in the South American country. Miners have been blamed for a number of environmental problems including over-hunting of wildlife, deforestation and destruction of riparian habitats, erosion, and mercury pollution in waterways.
Geology, climate links make Guiana Shield region particularly sensitive to change
(06/14/2008) Soil and climate patterns in the Guiana Shield make the region particularly sensitive to environmental change, said a scientist speaking at a biology conference in Paramaribo, Suriname.
Rare golden primates help speed recovery of endangered Brazilian forest
(06/09/2008) The endangered golden lion tamarin — a flagship species for conservation efforts in Brazil's highly threatened Atlantic Forest or Mata Atlantica — plays an important role in seed dispersal, thereby helping forest regeneration, according to research published in the June issue of the open access e-journal Tropical conservation Science.
Guiana Shield forests help preserve biodiversity and climate
(06/09/2008) The Guiana Shield region of South America could play a significant role in efforts to fight global warming as part of a broader strategy to protect the world's biodiversity hotspots and high biodiversty wilderness areas, said a leading conservationist speaking in Paramaribo, Suriname at a gathering of tropical biologists.
Amazon rainforest children to get medicinal plant training from shamans
(11/21/2007) The Amazon conservation Team (ACT) -- a group using innovative approaches to preserving culture and improving health among Amazonian rainforest tribes -- has been awarded a $100,000 grant from Nature's Path, an organic cereal manufacturer. The funds will allow ACT to address one of the most pressing social concerns for Amazon forest dwellers by expanding its educational and cultural "Shamans and Apprentice" program for indigenous children in the region.
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