Associate Professor Dr. Cynthia Simmons and a team of international scholars – including UF Geography’s Dr. Robert Walker, Michael Waylen, and Aghane Antunes – present a strategy for achieving sustainable development in Amazonia, given global climate change and the massive infrastructure program planned for the region, in their latest paper Science in support of Amazonian conservation in the 21st century: the case of Brazil published in Biotropica, the journal of the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation. The paper is featured on the front cover of the journal with a photo of Munduruku Women taken at gathering in July 2018 at Patawazal community in the Tapajos river valley, Para State, Brazil, taken by UF Geography doctoral student Ms. Maira Irigaray. On the banner is a greeting to participants “SAWE´! SAWE´! SAWE´!” a Munduruku battle cry signifying “We Are United, And Determined!” “The aim of the gathering was to empower and unite women and men of the tribe to defend their lands, life and culture, which today are in greater peril as Brazil’s President-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, vows to fast-track the large-scale mining and infrastructure plans they have been fighting years to stop,” said Dr. Simmons.

The fate of Amazonia is of great concern given its value as a global resource and the extent of its degradation to date. With nearly 20 percent of a pristine forest gone up in smoke, what happens in the 21st century will determine the fate of this last remaining tropical wilderness. The prognosis is not good, given the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA), the cross-continental program of infrastructure development being undertaken by the South American nations. Recent declines in rates of deforestation have raised some hope that the Amazonian nations will be able to ensure the long-run integrity of the region’s ecosystems. The new infrastructure plans could reverse these promising trends. Land clearance for agricultural development may soon be overshadowed by forest die-back associated with global climate change. While infrastructure development will likely bring economic opportunity to the residents of Amazonia, the growth it stimulates will surely generate substantial environmental impacts and strenuous efforts will be required to conserve it for future generations.

The paper sheds light on the massive scale and integrated blueprint design of IIRSA’s transcontinental plan, which synchronizes municipal, state, and national level road and rail projects, with national hydro-electric dam projects that serve the dual purposes to generate energy required for electricity intensive industrialization and make navigable the main tributaries of the Amazon through locks and reservoirs coupled with rock demolition, dredging, and channelization. It clearly illustrates the looming threat from infrastructure plans with a focus on the Tapajos Valley, Para State, where projects will dissect the Munuduruku homelands and transform the entire basin to make way for the Mississippi of South America, Brazil’s ultimate goal to spur the economy. “Readers will be surprised by the magnitude of this integrated plan, and worried when they contemplate the potential cumulative and synergistic impacts that will surely have dire consequences for the environment and the region’s populations,” explained Dr. Simmons.

The paper articulates an approach to conservation based on decades of transdisciplinary research and collaboration among the team of scientists that envisions organizing Amazonia’s protected areas into a basin-scale System of Refugia (SR), capable of maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services in the face of climate change. It also presents a coordinated program of interdisciplinary research capable of simulating Amazonia’s coupled natural and human systems and assessing the social and environmental impacts from IIRSA. Thus it provides essential information for planners and policy makers to select more sustainable alternatives, and it could serve as an early warning system for communities and environments at risk.

For more information, contact Dr. Cynthia Simmons. The full article is available at Biotropica.

ANTUNES, SIMMONS, WALKER, WAYLEN – Discipline and Develop: Destruction of the Brazil Nut Forest in the Lower Amazon Basin

Cynthia S. Simmons, Robert Walker, Stephen Aldrich, Eugenio Arima, Ritaumaria Pereira, Edna Maria Ramos de Castro, Fernando Michelotti, Michael Waylen, & Aghane Antunes

Article first published online: 20 DEC 2018 The Annals of the American Association of Geographers

DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2018.1489215

ABSTRACT: This article considers Amazonian environmental change by focusing on political and economic processes in a place-specific context with far-reaching global implications. In particular, we consider the destruction of the Brazil nut forest (BNF) in the lower basin. The Brazil nut tree yields a valuable nontimber forest product, and its loss raises concerns about Amazonia’s agro-ecological sustainability. The article posits the destruction of the BNF as an outcome of land creation, the transformation of soil surfaces into a production factor for market-oriented agriculture. Land creation in the lower basin sparked violent conflict, with the destruction of the BNF as collateral damage. Our account complements earlier research on the political economy of Amazonian development by providing an update tuned to the institutional and economic changes that have led to the region’s engagement with globalized beef markets and to the transformative impact on implicated actors (i.e., peasant, capital, and the state). In addition, the article uses the BNF case to consider current threats to Amazonia. In Brazil, deforestation rates declined after the turn of the millennium, due to environmental policy. Recent numbers show deforestation on the rise, however, as South American nations fast-track large infrastructure projects to transform Amazonia into a transport hub and a continental source of hydropower. The article questions whether Brazil’s environmental policies will sustain the Amazonian forest over the long run; the BNF disappeared despite efforts at conservation buttressed by legislative action. The article uses data from surveys, remote sensing, regional newspapers, and secondary sources based on declassified documents from Brazil’s Armed Forces, the National Truth Commission, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Read the full publication at The Annals of the American Association of Geographers

 

 

 

 

 

ANTUNES, SIMMONS, WALKER, WAYLENScience in support of Amazonian conservation in the 21st century: the case of Brazil

Cynthia S. Simmons, Lisa Famolare, Marcia N. Macedo, Robert T. Walker, Michael T. Coe, Brett Scheffers, Eugenio Arima, Rafael Munoz-Carpena, Denis Valle, Clyde Fraisse, Paul Moorcroft, Marcelo Diniz, Marcia Diniz, Claudio Szlafsztein, Ritaumaria Pereira, Cesar Ruiz, Gilberto Rocha, Daniel Juhn, Luis Otávio do Canto Lopes, Michael Waylen, Aghane Antunes, Yankuic M Galvan

Article first published online: 14 NOV 2018 Biotropica

DOI: 10.1111/btp.12610

ABSTRACT: This article presents a 21st Century agenda for Amazonian conservation. The agenda calls for developing a system of refugia and a scientific methodology for predicting impacts of the infrastructure development vision for the region. It also calls for a collaborative approach to conservation planning, in the interest of fruitful engagement with decision-makers and stakeholders. The ideas explored here emerged from the collaboration of peers over a decade, which culminated in a panel presentation, Scientific Analysis, and Simulation Models to Support Conservation and Development Decision-Making, at the Tools and Strategies Workshop held at the University of Florida in October, 2017.

Read the full publication at Biotropica

 

 

 

 

 

Aghane De Carvalho Antunes

agantunes@ufl.edu

Country of Origin: Brazil

Degree Program: M.S.

Entered Program: Fall 2015

Expected Graduation: Spring 2017

Dissertation Topic: The social and environmental challenges, risks and conflicts involving local communities, governments, and investors with a specific focus on Amazon development

Areas of interest: Political Ecology, Political Economy of Development, Human Environment Interactions, Globalization, Social Justice

Adviser: Dr. Cynthia Simmons

Educational Background

  • B.S. in Social Communication – Journalism,Universidade Federal do Maranhão (UFMA)/Universidade da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro
  • Post Graduate degree (Specialization) in Corporate Communication, Universidade Gama Filho
  • Certificate in International Corporate Communication, Syracuse University
Women in Geography 2015 Back (left to right): Johanna Engstrom, Corene Matyas, Rhonda Black, Guoqian Yan, Dawn Nekorchuk, Caroline Parks, Di Yang, Sadie Ryan, Jane Southworth, Audrey Smith Middle (left to right): Hannah Herrero, Jaclyn Hall, Maira Castro, Aghane Antunes, Cynthia Simmons, Alexandra Sabo, Barbara McDade-Gordon, Chiung-Shiuan Fu, ???, Joann Mossa Front (left to right): Yao Zhou, Stephanie Zick, Carly Muir
Women in Geography 2015
Back (left to right): Johanna Engstrom, Corene Matyas, Rhonda Black, Guoqian Yan, Dawn Nekorchuk, Caroline Parks, Di Yang, Sadie Ryan, Jane Southworth, Audrey Smith
Middle (left to right): Hannah Herrero, Jaclyn Hall, Maira Castro, Aghane Antunes, Cynthia Simmons, Alexandra Sabo, Barbara McDade-Gordon, Chiung-Shiuan Fu, Roberta Carvalho, Joann Mossa
Front (left to right): Yao Zhou, Stephanie Zick, Carly Muir