450 years of Amazon research reviewed
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
July 2, 2007
Writing in the February 2007 issue of the journal Conservation Biology, a team of researchers led by Dr. Nigel Pitman of the Center for Tropical Conservation at Duke University reviewed 80,000 pages of documents written between 1553 to 2004 on the biology and conservation of the department of Madre de Dios, Peru, in southwestern Amazonia. They found that 93% of documents were written after 1970 and that the publication rate has increased from fewer than 10 texts per year to nearly 3 texts per week in 2004. While this is a good development for conservation, half the texts are written in English in academic journals and thus largely inaccessible in Peru. The other half of articles, written in Spanish but published in scientific journals, are also mostly inaccessible to Peruvian researchers.
The authors say that the development of a virtual library for research on the Amazon would be an ideal step towards improving the availability of scientific information on one of the world's most important ecosystems. They suggest starting with a basin-wide bibliography of research--an effort that would probably cost less than $100,000. The authors advocate digitization of all texts as well as creation of popular summaries for academic documents. They say more documents should be translated into Spanish, English, and Portuguese and that researchers should encourage "a culture of reading and writing in the tropical scientific community." Pitman and colleagues conclude by calling for more support for research centers and "prolific authors."
"The world's undergoing a revolution in information, but it hasn't reached tropical forests yet," Pitman, who is also science director of the Amazon Conservation Association, told mongabay.com. "If you Google the name of the world's greatest tropical wilderness, nearly all the results point you to an online retailer in Seattle."
Nigel C. A. Pitman, Maria Del Carmen Loyola Azaldegui, Karina Salas, Gabriela T. Vigo, And David A. Lutz (2007). Written Accounts of an Amazonian Landscape Over the Last 450 Years. Conservation Biology Volume 21, No. 1, 253-262.