Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.
- New research has “shown for the first time that there is a significant link between deforestation and reduced fish catches” in the Amazon basin. Why is deforestation taking place in the Amazon rain forest?
- agriculture. Huge swaths of the Amazon rain forest are being converted to cropland and cattle ranches.
- forestry. According to Yale’s Global Forest Atlas, “In the Amazon basin, only a few species contain valuable timber … When land is cleared, settlers will sell the valuable timber and burn the remains to enrich the soil … Most logging activity is concentrated along highways and major rivers.”
- mining. Legal and illegal miners are extracting the Amazon’s gold reserves.
- oil and natural gas extraction. Just this month, Ecuador’s state oil company began drilling the first of 97 planned wells inside a new field at Yasuní National Park, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.
- hydroelectric power. Companies have cleared land to build huge power plants on the Amazon and its tributaries.
- Read through our great, relevant activity here. In particular, take a look at step two of the activity. Zoom in on the “Amazonia: Vital and Fragile” map above, and work through the “Role of Trees in the Amazon” worksheet here. Which of the three types of forest do you think the researchers focused on in the new study? Read through the Geographical article or Virginia Tech press release here for some help.
- How is deforestation in varzea forests impacting fish stocks in floodplain lakes?
- food. “‘Floodplain forests are the principal sources of food [for fish] via provision of detritus, tree leaves, fruits and insects,’” says one expert.
- habitat. Shady pools, as well as detritus such as twigs and leaves, provide a sheltered habitat for fish and their offspring. Without this habitat, fish are more vulnerable to predators. This often also means that fewer fish are allowed to grow to mature size, meaning a decline in the size of fish caught, as well as a decline in overall number.
- How might declining fish stocks impact surrounding communities and ecosystems?
- food. Roughly one-third of the global wild-caught fish yield comes from the tropics. Inland fisheries are vital to that food production.
- sustainable fishing. The food security of local populations is put at risk. “Tropical deforestation is not only a terrestrial issue — it can also decrease the number of fish available to some of the world’s poorest populations,” says one researcher.
- commercial fishing. The commercial fishing industry is threatened. “You have to protect these habitats if you want to maintain the food production and the income that rivers provide. River floodplains produce more fish than any other freshwater system in the world.”
- environment. Floodplains generally lack the protections secured for upland rain forest ecosystems. This is the first major study documenting the links between floodplain lake fisheries and deforestation.
- other tropical fisheries. “The link is bad news for fisheries all over the tropics. According to the report, these areas are not only some of the most productive food sources, but often sustain livelihoods of the poorest human populations.”
- How are scientists hoping to pursue the link between deforestation and declining fish stocks?
- laws. “‘More strict legislation is necessary to protect floodplain forests from clearing to do ranching or agriculture,’ says one researcher. ‘Even if cattle ranching provides more cash in the short-term, it is unlikely that such benefits will be greater than the overall food, income, and livelihood security that come from fisheries in the long-run.’”
- more research. “In the future, the researchers hope to expand their scope to include other variables that may affect fisheries yields, such as the depth and connectivity of the lakes studied.”
Geographical: Fish sticks: declining Amazon fish
Nat Geo: What is a rain forest?
Nat Geo: What is a flood plain?