- Mongabay is publishing a new edition of the book, “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon,” in short installments and in three languages: Spanish, English and Portuguese.
- Author Timothy J. Killeen is an academic and expert who, since the 1980s, has studied the rainforests of Brazil and Bolivia, where he lived for more than 35 years.
- Chronicling the efforts of nine Amazonian countries to curb deforestation, this edition provides an overview of the topics most relevant to the conservation of the region’s biodiversity, ecosystem services and Indigenous cultures, as well as a description of the conventional and sustainable development models that are vying for space within the regional economy.
- This is part of chapter 1 of “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon,” see the bottom of this page for links to all the excerpts.
In the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries, scientists affiliated with institutions in the Northern Hemisphere organized most expeditions into the Amazon. These botanists, zoologists and anthropologists were accompanied by native-born and immigrant scientists who pioneered the establishment of natural history museums in the nations of the Pan Amazon. Investment in research and education expanded dramatically as governments pursued development strategies predicated on the exploitation of the region’s natural resources. Institutional capacity grew to encompass more than fifty universities and a half dozen research institutions within the Pan Amazon. Collections, publications and students grew exponentially and, by the end of the millennium, more specimens were accessioned annually in the regional museums than all of the legacy collections housed in foreign museums.
The collections in European and North American museums are the foundation of the taxonomic classification systems at the center of biodiversity science; unfortunately, that information was unavailable to local biologists, who struggled to identify the plants and animals they encountered during their fieldwork. Starting in the 1980s and accelerating in the 1990s and 2000s, innovation in information management and the creation of the internet revolutionized biodiversity science.
Online information resources, such as taxonomic databases and digital image archives, have vastly improved the quantity and quality of floristic and faunistic inventories. Every country can now boast a relatively complete catalogue of all vertebrate groups and a robust checklist of vascular plants, which continue to improve as cadres of young biologists explore their countries.
Biogeographers and population ecologists can now accurately map the distribution and abundance of species, which has improved the identification of endemic species unique to a specific region or locality, as well as objectively evaluate the risk of extinction for individual species. Regional biologists routinely participate in the global effort sponsored by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to identify species at risk of extinction while leading the same effort within their own countries. Having these studies executed by native-born biologists laboring within domestic institutions has increased the legitimacy of that information in the eyes of government and society.
“A Perfect Storm in the Amazon” is a book by Timothy Killeen and contains the author’s viewpoints and analysis. The second edition was published by The White Horse in 2021, under the terms of a Creative Commons license (CC BY 4.0 license).
Read the other excerpted portions of chapter 1 here:
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