August 13, 2008

Oil, Gas Projects Threaten Western Amazon

U.S. scientists say they've found oil and gas projects in the western Amazon are threatening not only biodiversity, but also the area's indigenous peoples.

The study by Duke University and two non-profit organizations -- Save America's Forests and Land Is Life -- found the western Amazon, home to the most biodiverse and intact rainforest left on Earth, might soon be covered with oil rigs and pipelines.

Researchers said more than 180 oil and gas "blocks" -- areas zoned for exploration and development -- now cover more than 170 million acres across the western Amazon, which includes Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and western Brazil.

"We found that the oil and gas blocks overlap perfectly with the most biodiverse part of the Amazon for birds, mammals and amphibians," said study co-author Dr. Clinton Jenkins of Duke University. "The threat to amphibians is of particular concern because they are already the most threatened group of vertebrates worldwide."

The scientists said even national parks are not immune, with exploration and development blocks covering the Yasuní National Park in Ecuador and the Madidi National Park in Bolivia.

The study appears in the online journal PLoS One.