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Balancing conservation and development in the Brazilian Amazon: do win-win solutions really exist?

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr James Kirkbride.

Poverty alleviation and the desire for material wealth mean that economic development stands at the forefront of the social and political agenda of most tropical countries. Yet with rare exceptions food production and other development activities invariably result in the loss and degradation of natural ecosystems. Such losses are of significant concern because human well-being also depends upon the effective protection of ecosystem services such as climate amelioration, the provision of clean water, and the conservation of biodiversity. Nowhere is this trade-off more starkly felt than in the Amazon which is currently experiencing the highest absolute rates of forest loss for any tropical region in the world, is home to nearly half of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and plays a globally important role in the Earth’s carbon and water cycles. Solving this problem is far from trivial. History tells us that balancing environmental and economic goals is extremely challenging and trade-offs are far more common than win-win solutions. Here I will briefly outline how we are addressing this challenge through a multi-disciplinary project in the eastern Brazilian Amazon. I believe that reconciliation of joint development and conservation goals is possible yet the science and decision making processes that are needed to achieve this remain embryonic. Success can be found by (i) making trade-offs more explicit, (ii) employing a wider range of multi-disciplinary tools to explore and negotiate trade-offs and identify possible synergies between multiple objectives, and (iii) implementing a wider range of strategies to compensate those who bear the cost of conserving remaining areas of tropical forest.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Sciences Group series.

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