|Peru Forest Figures
Total 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, 2000-2005
Annual 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%
Social services: n.s.%
Multiple purpose: 26%
None or unknown: 9.9
Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 68,742,000 ha
Primary: 61,065,000 ha
Modified natural: 6,923,000 ha
Production plantation: 754,000 ha
Production plantation: n/a
Plantations, 2005: 754,000 ha
% of total forest cover: 1.1%
Annual change rate (00-05): 7,800,000 ha
Above-ground biomass: n/a M t
Below-ground biomass: n/a M t
Area annually affected by
Fire: 35,000 ha
Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 2,500
Critically endangered: 33
Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 1,891,000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: 8,898,000 m3 o.b.
Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: $4,409,000
Wood fuel: n/a
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): n/a
Total Value: $4,409,000
More forest statistics for Peru
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.
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Suggested reading - Books
- The Shaman's Apprentice: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest
- Peru (The Traveller's Wildlife Guides)
- A Field Guide to the Birds of Peru
- Lonely Planet Peru
- Frommer's Peru
- Insight Guide Peru
- Footprint Peru
- The Rough Guide to Peru
- Moon Handbooks Peru
- Mammals of the Neotropics (Volume 3 ): The Central Neotropics: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil
- Tropical Nature : Life and Death in the Rain Forests of Central and South America
- A Neotropical Companion
Unless otherwise specified, this article was written by Rhett A. Butler [Bibliographic citation for this page]
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Last updated: 6 Feb 2006