- Mongabay has begun 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.
- Click the “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon” link atop this page to see chapters 1-13 as they are published during 2023.
Although never organized as a specific project, the Carretera Marginal de la Selva has emerged from multiple projects that have been established in the Andean foothills from Colombia to Bolivia. In addition to the gap across the Serranía de Macarena, there is a small gap between Ecuador and Peru that conserves a biological corridor between Parque Nacional Podocarpus in the Andes to the Reserva biológica Cerro Plateado in the Cordillera del Condor and several Awajún Indigenous territories in Peru.
Within Peru, whose president proposed the idea, the Carretera Marginal de la Selva traces a sinuous route through the foothills of the Andes, the Marañon Valley, the Huallaga Valley, the piedmont landscapes of Huanuco and Pasco and the Selva Central. Disjunct from this continuous highway are segments of the Peruvian Yungas and the piedmont of the Madre de Dios. Virtually all Peru’s lowland tropical agriculture is located within 50 kilometers of this road, which – despite its idiosyncratic route – makes it a strategic asset supporting domestic food security.
Official highway maps show a future potential route for the Carretera Marginal de la Selva, which would extend south from the Selva Central ~800 kilometers toward the Camisea gas fields to the Corridor Interoceanico del Sur near Puerto Maldonado (Madre de Dios).
This gap in the highway network is, perhaps, the world’s most important biological corridor, because it facilitates biological interchange between the mega-diverse rainforests of the Southeast Amazon and the montane forests of the Central Andes. The corridor experiences some of the highest annual rainfall on the planet and is considered to be resilient to climate change due to inherently stable, continental-scale patterns of wind flow.
A highway, either on the piedmont or in the foothills, would interrupt the ability of species to adapt to changes in temperature by migrating up a topographic gradient across the forest-covered slopes of three massive cordilleras (Vilcabamba, Urubamba, Vilcanota).
The importance of the region for biodiversity conservation has been known for decades, and most of the area has been set aside either as a protected area or Indigenous reserve. Any attempt to compromise the integrity of these reserves will be met with fierce resistance from academics, civil society and Indigenous people. Nonetheless, the Peruvian government, or at least the functionaries within its highway planning agency, continue to place the proposed highway on official maps and, presumably, in the investment portfolios of its future infrastructure agenda
The proposed extension of PE-5S to the Bolivian border would likewise intrude on protected areas but would link up with a planned extension of the road currently under construction between Yucumo and Ixiamas. Unlike the other Andean nations, Bolivia does not have an explicit plan to construct a highway corridor named Carretera Marginal de la Selva. Nonetheless, trunk highways in La Paz and the Chapare essentially conform to the original concept. The 200-kilometer gap between these two sections is, as in Peru, an important biological corridor that has been incorporated into the protected area network and/or indigenous territory.
“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 2 here: