Managing the Tropical Rainforest

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Managing the Tropical Rainforest

Pressures on Tropical rainforests are vast, mainly as they provide numerous opportunities for development, especially in LEDC'S where they are viewed as a highly profitable resource.


This results from:

  • Mineral extraction (Amazonia).
  • Logging for tropical hardwoods (world wide).
  • Energy production (dams for HEP).
  • Tourism.
  • Population pressure.
  • Wood pulp for paper mills.
  • Banana and coffee plantations (Costa Rica and South America).

Rainforest clearance leads to major changes in the ecosystem as the state of dynamic equilibrium is upset as a result of changes to inputs and outputs into the system. Impacts are felt on plants and animals, water cycle, climate, landscape.

The list below outlines concerns in more depth:

  • Greater possibility of pests and disease as monoculture provides a uniform source of food, and herbivores can easily adapt to this.
  • Vital stores of nutrients are lost as decomposers that release and fix nitrogen in the soil are removed.
  • Up to 99% of all nutrients are stored in plant material; their removal quickly diminishes rainforest fertility.
  • Less interception of rainfall increases sheet and gully erosion.
  • Silting of lakes and rivers occurs.
  • Disruption of traditional ways of life.
  • Loss of diverse flora and fauna.
  • Contribution to global warming.
  • Decrease in productivity of ecosystem.

Rainforest clearance

Nutrient Cycle Changes:

These have been outlined in the diagram under the heading Nutrient Cycle.

There are a variety of approaches, some of which are more appropriate than others. Increasingly the move has been towards sustainable approaches, where the use of resources is less than the ability of an ecosystem to replace itself, thus meaning that a state of dynamic equilibrium is maintained.

Approaches to management include:

  • Reducing amount of burning to reduce amounts of fertiliser, and maintain organic matter.
  • Stop monoculture, and encourage planting of a variety of crops, reducing nutrient depletion.
  • Limiting use of large machinery, which encourages soil compaction.
  • Limit large scale grazing, again to reduce effects of soil compaction.
  • Control of pH value of soil to limit high levels of acidity.
  • Limit the area that is being developed.
  • Production of sustainable crops and products such as, fruit trees, rubber, brazilnuts, wax and honey, ecotourism.

This is low-density tourism with a small impact on the natural environment, which takes place mainly in small groups. It is important to local communities as they have control over it and see direct benefits. Within the Amazon Basin ecotourism is in operation and today there are approximately 80 agencies offering 'eco' packages, ranging from day trips to larger packages. The Amazon State Tourist Board supports them.

The key features of the trips include:

  • Little technology is used.
  • Waste is removed from the forest.
  • Solar power is a typical form of energy.
  • Meals are prepared with local ingredients.
  • The staff are from the local area (employment opportunities).
  • Groups are limited in their number - (usually 10).
  • Accommodation is constructed from local materials to blend in with surroundings.
  • Education is a central aim of the visit.